The AgroSpheres Team

Payam Pourtaheri

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

Payam co-founded AgroSpheres and manages the company’s day-to-day operations, along with aiding in both the technical and business development of the company. He also leads regulatory and IP strategies for the company. Payam is passionate about utilizing synthetic biology to provide safer, more efficient crop protection solutions. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a background in nanomedicine, materials science, and chemistry.

Ameer Shakeel

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

Ameer co-founded AgroSpheres. He leads product development and technical corporate collaborations. He ensures AgroSpheres  reaches its long-term technical milestones and effectively executes on its collaborations with corporate and academic partners. Ameer has managed the successful completion of several corporate contracts that have demonstrated the benefits of the AgriCell technology. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, studying biomedical engineering with his research focused on utilizing synthetic biology for real-world applications.

Sergio Carballo

LEAD FORMULATION AND MICRO-ENCAPSULATION CHEMIST

Sergio was Chief Scientist at Marine Essence Biosciences, a biotechnology company located in California. As a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sergio conducted nanotechnology and biotechnology research to produce novel polymeric carriers. At AgroSpheres, he focuses on engineering the AgriCell platform to achieve optimal loading efficiency and controlled release profiles, utilizing novel polymeric stabilizing systems and innovative colloidal science principles. Sergio received his Ph.D. from the University of Valencia, Spain. 

ZACHERY DAVIS

LEAD BIOCHEMIST

Zach specializes in biological engineering of the AgriCell platform, including the production and interaction of DNA, RNA, and proteins. He works to optimize AgriCell fermentation to maximize the production of encapsulated, biological active ingredients. Zach also oversees laboratory operations to coordinate the technical development of AgroSpheres’ multifaceted technology.  He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in chemistry and a concentration in biochemistry.

JOSEPH T. FRANK

LEAD BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER

Joseph helps lead the research and development of the characterization and formulation of the AgriCell platform technology.  His work focuses on enhancing the encapsulation of actives into the AgriCell and engineering their release kinetics. In addition to his research, Joseph also facilitates lab administration and operations. He is a biomedical engineering graduate with a minor in business from the University of Virginia.

SEPEHR ZOMORODI

LEAD Product ENGINEER

Sep is AgroSpheres’ lead product engineer and concentrates on developing next-generation micro-scale technologies. Currently, he focuses on development of AgriCell formulations and engineering the platform to encapsulate a variety of active ingredients for agricultural applications. Sep also specializes in product testing and technology scouting. He is a biomedical engineering graduate of the University of Virginia.

Jacob Englaender

Lead Microbial Fermentation scientist

Jake leads research and development of microbial fermentation, a core component of AgroSpheres’ R&D program. His work is aimed at optimizing the fermentation process to increase the production of AgriCells and the encapsulated biologicals. In addition to improving the fermentation process, Jake also conducts strain engineering to maximize AgriCell production. Jake received his Ph.D. in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where his work centered on metabolic engineering and protein expression in bacterial and yeast systems.

Douglas Eisner

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Doug joined AgroSpheres as CEO in July 2018. Previously, Doug was co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of GrassRoots Biotechnology, an agricultural biotechnology company that was spun out of Duke University in 2007. As COO, Doug helped manage GrassRoots’ five-year strategic alliance with Monsanto. The team grew the company to 25 employees and over $4.5 million in annual revenue. Monsanto acquired GrassRoots in 2013. Prior to GrassRoots, Doug practiced law in NYC, including eight years as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Doug received his MBA from Duke University.

 

Kira Bartlett

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Kira focuses on improving the encapsulation efficiency of a wide range of active ingredients loaded into the AgriCell.  Her responsibilities also include application formulation and scale-up of production. Kira comes to AgroSpheres from Novozymes Biologicals, where she worked for several years in downstream product development. Kira graduated from Clemson University with a degree in biosystems engineering and a focus on bioprocessing. 

Elisabeth Somers

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Elisabeth supports RNA research related to advancing the AgriCell platform. Her work includes RNA extraction, quantification and data analysis. In prior work with genetic testing companies, she developed a diverse skill set in genetic and microbiological laboratory techniques. Elisabeth holds a master’s in genetics and genomics from Oxford Brookes University along with an undergraduate degree in medical laboratory sciences from the University of New Hampshire.

LISA CHEN

R&D INTERN

Lisa concentrates on the research and development of synthetic biological products for a multitude of agricultural applications. She also works on AgriCell characterization and on expanding the platform technology across a variety of different active designs. She obtained her B.S. in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, where she is currently studying for her master’s in engineering.

Non-Executive Directors

Carl M. Casale

Carl joined the AgroSpheres board in August 2019. In 1984, he started work at the Monsanto Company and rose through the ranks from sales representative to Executive Vice President of Strategy and Operations and finally to Chief Financial Officer. In 2011, Carl left Monsanto to become CEO of CHS, Inc., which is the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the United States. Currently, Carl is a member of Syngenta’s board of directors, where he chairs the audit committee, and he is a senior agricultural partner at Ospraie Ag Science, an investment firm focused on sustainable technologies for the agriculture industry. 

Yelda Ünal

Yelda joined the AgroSpheres board of directors in August 2017. Currently, Yelda leads the R&D department and is the manager of production and quality assurance of ORBA Biokimya San. A.S. in Istanbul. ORBA is a leading producer and formulator of industrial enzyme products with an emphasis on enzymes for the food sector. Yelda has been at ORBA since 1996. She spent a studying engineering at the Biochemical & Molecular Department at Louisiana State University. Yelda has a degree in food engineering and a master’s degree in biotechnology from Middle Eastern Technical University of Ankara, Turkey.

Advisory Board

Todd Abraham

Todd Abraham is currently the Chief Innovation Officer for The Cronos Group, a global leader in the emerging cannabis industry. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President of global research and nutrition at Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods). His 35+ year career spans research and development, marketing, and general management in the food industry. In addition to his experience in food technology, Dr. Abraham received his PhD in inorganic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from the Wharton School.

Per Falholt, Ph.d.

Per Falholt was the Executive Vice President of R&D at Novozymes A/S. The department grew from 400 to 1350 employees in his 15 years as a leader there. DKK. With a global innovation rank of 59, according to Forbes, and a #1 position as best employer for scientists within biotech & pharma by Science Magazine in October 2015, Per Falholt sets himself as a frontrunner in the fields of delivering solutions for customer needs and maintaining growth through innovation.

Mark Kester, PH.D.

Dr. Kester, our Chief Scientific Advisor and co-founder, has research interests that include the design, characterization, and validation of nanotechnologies for targeted drug delivery. Dr. Kester has consulted with and helped found several companies that have the license to his “nano Solutions.” He is also the Director of the nanoSTAR Institute at the University of Virginia. He is a founder of Keystone Nano, a pharmaceutical company developing a ceramide nanoliposome drug that is in clinical trials for hepatocellular carcinoma.

Daniel kittle, ph.d.

Dan led Dow AgroSciences R&D for 16 years.  His management of its portfolio elevated Dow AgroSciences to a leading position in the crop protection chemicals industry and a top position in seeds and traits. His tenure included commercialization of the most successful fermentation derived active ingredient for the agricultural market. Dan’s leadership accelerated the development of innovative products that delivered billions of dollars of revenue for Dow AgroSciences and, more importantly, help address the essential challenge of feeding the growing world population.

Michael Kock

Michael has worked at the interface between innovation, technology acceptance, and intellectual property for 25 years. With degrees in chemistry and molecular biology, and with international working experience in pharmaceutical and agricultural research, his heart beats for enabling innovation in areas of elementary human needs—especially food security and health. Until the end of 2017, Michael was Head of Intellectual Property for Syngenta Crop Protection AG in Basel, Switzerland. Now he assists start-up companies in designing holistic IP, freedom-to-operate, and value capture strategies. As a qualified European and Swiss patent attorney, Michael regularly lectures on IP and has published multiple papers on plant IP issues in peer reviewed law journals.

Kelly Smith, PH.D.

Kelly Smith co-founded Pasteuria Bioscience, where she was principally responsible for development of the proprietary Pasteuria manufacturing process. She served most recently as CTO prior to its acquisition by Syngenta. Currently, Kelly is the Director of Bioprocessing at Joyn Bio. She holds an MS and PhD in environmental engineering science from the California Institute of Technology and a BS in chemical engineering from Michigan State University.