AFCC's Executive Committee
Paul Zorner, Ph.D.
Chief Agronomist, Locus Agricultural Solutions
Dr. Paul Zorner is the Chief Agronomist of Locus Agricultural Solutions where he previously served as CEO. He focuses on strategy, operations and development. He is an executive and innovator with 40+ years of international experience in science, R&D, operations and administration, holding leadership positions at multiple organizations including Mycogen Corporation, Dow Chemical, BASF and Diversa Corporation. Dr. Zorner is also Adjunct Professor of Horticulture at North Carolina State University and Associate Editor of the journal Industrial Biotechnology.
Phil Van Trump
CTO, Danimer Scientific
As chief technology officer, Mr. Phil Van Trump manages research & development, product development, regulatory affairs, and intellectual property for Danimer Scientific.
Prior to this role, which he stepped into in 2014, Mr. Van Trump worked in a variety of positions within the company, performing bench-scale to pilot-level research as well as playing an integral role in the procurement of equipment and laboratory personnel to advance the company’s objectives. His undergraduate background in molecular biology and microbiology (BSc University of Central Florida) is supplemented by an MBA from Emory University.
In addition to his education, he brought to Danimer Scientific over a decade of industry experience. Mr. Van Trump’s proficiency in management and scientific insight are a rare combination and are put to use daily as he leads an innovative team of scientists and support personnel in creation of sustainable biopolymer solutions.
AFCC's Governing Board of Directors
Brent Aufdembrink, Ph.D.
Applications Technical Director, Cargill BioIndustrial
Dr. Brent Aufdembrink is the Director of Industrial Applications Technology for Cargill’s BioIndustrial business.
In this role, he aligns R&D with business commercial direction; manages intellectual property; provides strategic input for new business development; builds global R&D teams, and integrates technology across global regions. There is a special focus on agriculture-based industrial biobased products from renewable chemicals.
Dr. Aufdembrink has extensive experience in research and technology management, as well as new product and business development. Prior to joining Cargill, Dr. Aufdembrink researched petroleum catalyst and process chemistry at Mobil Research and Development Corporation. He also developed shape selective catalysis for industrial chemistry and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc, as well as developed new business by partnering with customers for custom product opportunities. He has extensive experience in successfully developing bio-based chemistry to replace petroleum products in numerous market areas.
AFCC's Governing Board of Directors
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Brightmark LLC
Dan Cummings is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Brightmark LLC, a leading company that is transforming organic waste into renewable natural gas and creating innovative approaches to plastic renewal.
Dan has over 25 years of experience in the renewable energy and clean tech sectors. His work has included building and leading organizations in senior leadership roles with companies like INEOS Bio, BP, zuChem, POET-DSM, and Sevana BioEnergy.
Dan holds a Law Degree from Temple University, a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Puget Sound. He has previously served on the boards of several trade industry groups working to advance the renewable energy and industrial biotech sectors.
Lori Giver, Ph.D.
Dr. Lori Giver, was named Vice President, Research and Development in 2019. She joined Calysta in 2013 as Vice President, Biological Engineering.
Previously, Dr. Giver was with Codexis, Inc., where she held a number of positions including Vice President of Systems Biology, Senior Director of Technology and Innovation, and Manager of Market Development. Prior to Codexis she was head of the Core Technology Group at Maxgyen, Inc.
Dr. Giver has focused her career on the directed evolution of nucleic acids, proteins and organisms. She has chaired a wide variety of conferences in the field including Enzyme Engineering XXI and Applications for Enzyme Technologies 2013. She is an author on numerous scientific publications and over 50 patents and patent applications.
Dr. Giver received a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California-Berkeley and Ph.D. in Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology from Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Giver did her post-doctoral research at the California Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Dr. Frances Arnold, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ling Hua, Ph.D.
SVP & Head of Group Biotechnology, Clariant
Dr. Ling Hua, Senior Vice President and Head of Group Biotechnology, is responsible for R&D and commercialization of bioproducts at Clariant.
Dr. Hua has more than 20 years’ experience in biotechnology arena, including biofuels, industrial enzymes, biomaterials and probiotics. And, has global experience, worked with companies in US, China and Europe.
She was Harold Jeskey Professor at Southern Methodist University in the field of biocatalysis and biotransformation. Prior to joining Clariant, Dr. Hua spent more than 10 years at DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences in various functions. She has a MS degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. in Bioorganic Chemistry from Rice University. She authored more than 40 research papers, book chapters, and she is the inventor of several dozens of issued patents. Currently, she is also a Board member of SusChem (European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry).
President & General Counsel, Virent
Mr. Dave Kettner serves as the President for Virent, Inc., a renewable fuels and chemicals company working to commercialize its BioForming technology for the conversion of biomass based feedstocks to drop-in renewable fuels and chemicals.
Mr. Kettner previously served as Virent's VP of Legal and Business Operations and has been responsible for managing its legal affairs since joining the company in early 2007. Mr. Kettner is a licensed patent attorney with extensive years of experience in intellectual property management and other legal matters, including patent prosecution, licensing, enforcement, and strategic planning.
Before joining Virent, Mr. Kettner served as Chief Legal Counsel for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and was as an attorney in private practice. Mr. Kettner holds a JD in Law and BS in Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota.
CEO & President, Red Rock Biofuels
Mr. Terry Kulesa, is the co-founder and CEO of Red Rock Biofuels. Mr. Kulesa handles business development, team management and construction and operations. His previous experience included the design, construction and operation of five ethanol plants totaling over $500 million of construction and over $500 million of annual revenues.
Mr. Kulesa has over 20 years’ experience in managing biofuel operations. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Ag-Biosciences (Dairy Manufacturing) from South Dakota State University and an MBA from the University of Minnesota.
CEO, Greeley Green Energy
Mr. Richard J. Nordin, CFA, Managing Director, has over 25 years of experience in project development and private equity capital markets, with extensive experience living and working in the emerging markets of Russia and Eastern Europe.
Mr. Nordin is an Investment Banker registered with Chatsworth Securities LLC, with a deep focus on emerging technologies in the clean-tech, renewables, and infrastructure spaces. He serves as Plasma Development’s Managing Director and will manage the capital campaign, sourcing of key staff, facility development logistics, and development of key sales and service functions.
Mr. Nordin’s previous positions include Managing Partner of Lone Star Ventures, a Moscow based property developer, in which role he raised and deployed nearly $1 Billion in equity and debt capital for over 10 million square feet of industrial developments in Russia and Kazakhstan.
David P. Smoot
CEO, Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels
Mr. David Smoot has an extensive business background covering almost 45 years. His business career started after an honorable discharge from the US Army Reserves. He then spent 20 years in the micro-computer hardware and software industries in Operations and numerous other senior positions. He then founded the nation’s first “software-only” leasing company which financed transactions involving Fortune 100 companies.
Mr. Smoot then retired to Arizona. After that, he started a real estate infrastructure development company, he turned his sights to renewable energy which morphed into renewable fuels. He started Hawaii Renewable Fuels, LLC in 2014 and Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, Inc. in 2016-17.
Mr. Smoot has created a model not seen in this industry to date: a turnkey solution to developing Bio-mass-to-Fuel that is 100% guaranteed with world-class partners, second-generation and proven technologies, fixed “cradle to grave” feed stock, operating and sale of fuel costs, operated by a world-class O&M, all under the umbrella of world-class EPC Wrap.
Mr. Smoot was twice named a regional finalist to Ernst & Young’s and Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. He served on the boards of five well-known charities and is still active in the Prostate-On-Site-Project, POP, which annually does the Legends Golf Tournament held at the Biltmore, with Jerry Colangelo asChairman of the event.
Project Finance, Velocys
Mr. Andrew Miller is an energy finance professional with strategic advisory, capital formation, and financial structuring expertise. From start-up through IPO and sale, including project development, commercial contract negotiation, and risk management strategies. Industry experience across upstream, midstream, downstream, energy technology, and renewables. Currently, Mr. Miller is developing first of its kind woody biomass-to-liquid bio-refinery. He is known for founding and selling Pinto Energy, a gas-to-liquid project developer, principal structured investor in international E&P companies, and has led highly successful oil & gas capital markets team.
VP, Live Oak Bank
Mr. Max Vernier leads the Bioenergy Lending team in the Energy & Infrastructure division at Live Oak Bank. The team is dedicated to financing renewable energy projects by strategically deploying capital to developers. Target markets include: utility-scale and community solar, battery storage, wind energy, hydroelectric, waste-to-energy, anaerobic digestion, landfill gas, municipal wastewater treatment, agricultural waste management, organic fertilizer, biorefinery, bio-based product manufacturing, and other recycling technologies.
Mr. Vernier joined Live Oak in 2013 after graduating from Washington and Lee University with a B.A., double majoring in Economics and Spanish. He spent his first year in the Business Advisory Group managing a portfolio of 100 small business owners across the country.
In this role, he provided consulting services to borrowers and conducted internal financial reporting and analysis. Mr. Vernier has also spent time as a credit underwriter determining the logistics, structure, quality and soundness of loans. Since 2015, he has been focused on generating new loan opportunities and developing strategic relationships within the renewable energy and biofuel industries. Over the last three years, the Energy & Infrastructure team has funded over $800M in project finance.
Esther Yu, PhD.
Dr. Esther J. Yu is Director of Regulatory Affairs at Zymergen, a technology company that combines machine learning and high through-put laboratory methods to deliver molecules for novel materials and solutions. Dr. Yu has a diverse regulatory background, including expertise in agribusiness, biofuels, chemicals, foods and personal care, which is critical in supporting Zymergen’s activities across multiple industries.
Previously, Dr. Yu worked as an Associate Director of Regulatory Affairs at several start-up companies, helping them obtain US and international authorizations and approvals for commercial product launch. She began her professional career as a research scientist at a biotechnology start-up, which sparked her interest and continuing passion in working with innovative companies.
Dr. Yu has authored numerous publications in scientific journals for her research and regulatory affairs work. She obtained her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Cambridge University and her B.A. in Biology from Johns Hopkins University.