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Future of Pharma Insights: Q&A with Olon Group 

As leaders and innovators across the global pharmaceutical manufacturing industry come together in New York City today for DCAT Week 2024, Antheia is proud to have recently announced its ongoing partnership with Italy-based Olon Group. Olon is a global leader in developing and manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) and generic markets that we have partnered with since 2022.  

As a team, we have achieved several major milestones over the past year toward our mission to transform essential medicine supply chains with synthetic biology. Reaching those milestones was no small feat and scaling up to meet the demands of the global pharmaceutical industry requires the right manufacturing partners to help realize our vision. As part of our continued partnership, we will leverage Olon’s vast fermentation infrastructure across Italy to manufacture early products in our pipeline.  

Following last week’s announcement, we sat down with Andrea Conforto, VP of CDMO at Olon Biotech, to ask about his work at Olon, the value of the Antheia partnership, and where the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is headed in the future. 

Tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to Olon Group. 

I’ve spent the last 20 years working in the biotech and CDMO field. My work has spanned everything from process engineering and project management to cost management and business development. Over the last decade, I have focused on the business side of biotech, and joined Olon seven years ago to support the company’s growth in the biotech space. I currently lead the CDMO biotech division, overseeing the business development team and collaborating as part of the M&A team. I was also part of the M&A team involved in the acquisition of Capua BioServices s.p.a., which is now one of the most important CDMO biomanufacturing sites within Olon’s network.  

How did the Olon team come to work with Antheia?  

We first connected with Antheia in 2021 during an industry event in the U.S. After that first interaction, we set up an introductory call with our technical teams and immediately recognized the value of Antheia’s technology. We saw the potential for Antheia to fit into Olon’s manufacturing infrastructure, and knew our high-value expertise could help Antheia move its biosynthetic APIs from the lab to industrial scale. We entered into an initial partnership in 2022, and will now continue our collaboration in 2024 and beyond.  

Given Olon’s extensive experience in biomanufacturing, how do you view the role of fermentation in the pharmaceutical industry?  

Olon today is a globally-recognized, reliable partner for innovative companies working in the biomanufacturing space, ranging in size from small startups to medium and large businesses. We support our partners at each stage of the project, from development and scaling up, to industrial scale production for early clinical stage up to commercial stage. Our biotech division has more than 50 years of experience providing high-quality fermentation manufacturing services, and we are a globally licensed API manufacturer. Fermentation technology is a major part of the overall pharmaceutical supply chain, and it has the potential to help end shortages of essential medicines. We are excited to lead the way with partners like Antheia.  

Why is this ongoing partnership important for the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing? 

This collaboration between Antheia and Olon is extremely important for the pharmaceutical industry. By combining Antheia’s synthetic biology technology with Olon’s manufacturing assets and experience, we can produce essential medicines more sustainably and responsibly. Our collaboration will help fortify the current fragile and sometimes unpredictable supply chain of APIs sourced from nature. We were an important partner during Antheia’s recent commercial milestones for thebaine, and look forward to working with Antheia on its broader pipeline of biosynthetic KSMs and APIs in the future.  

How is Olon helping companies like Antheia strengthen the pharmaceutical supply chain and end drug shortages?  

As with our partnership with Antheia, we support pharma companies in developing, optimizing and manufacturing a wide range of molecules including small molecules, peptides, enzymes, therapeutic proteins, and antibody fragments. Our biomanufacturing sites are located in Italy and our work with Antheia will be located at our Settimo Torinese site (located close to Turin), which offers 4,500 cubic meters of total fermentation capacity, operating in compliance with current cGMPs and meeting the highest quality standards. Our work together will play a key role in making pharmaceutical supply chains more resilient for the critical healthcare systems that rely on it.  

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Richard Sherwin

Head of Commercialization

Richard is an industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the KSM, API, and intermediate markets. He is responsible for leading the commercialization and revenue generation for Antheia’s robust pipeline of products. Richard brings an exceptional track record of leading international sales teams, driving revenue growth, building strategic partnerships, and delivering innovative products to market, including ANDA and NDA developments. Richard led commercial efforts at some of the leading global pharmaceutical companies and most recently, built his own consultancy business advising a range of clients, including $1B divisions of major multinationals.

Appropriate regulatory submissions will be prepared and submitted to support Antheia’s customers who need to reference and access necessary process-related information.

Yihui Zhu, PhD

Head of Fermentation

Yihui leads the fermentation team at Antheia. With over 25 years of hands-on experience in the field, he brings in-depth knowledge and expertise in microbial metabolism and fermentation process development. He is also skilled in developing comprehensive fermentation data collection, analysis, and visualization systems. Prior to joining Antheia, he served as a fermentation lead at Intrexon and Codexis where he successfully built fermentation labs and teams and led multiple biofuel and biochemical projects to reach stretch milestones and tech transfer. Yihui is passionate about the potential of fermentation and is dedicated to advancing the field through innovative research and development.

Yen-Hsiang Wang, PhD

Head of Strategy, Partnerships, and Finance

Yen-Hsiang leads strategy, partnerships and finance at Antheia. He completed his M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering at Stanford, with extensive research experience in synthetic biology, metabolic engineering and computational modeling. Before joining Antheia, he worked at McKinsey and Tencent with a strong focus in corporate strategy and big data/advanced analytics. At Tencent, he served as Director of Strategy and Business Development for the AI Lab, leading corporate initiatives in healthcare AI/ML applications and commercialization. He also served in AI4H (Artificial Intelligence for Health), a collaboration between WHO and ITU, to establish global standards for AI in healthcare.

Audrey Wang

Head of Financial Planning and Analysis

Audrey leads financial planning and analysis at Antheia. With an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, Audrey is passionate about leveraging financial analysis, digital technology, and data analytics to guide companies in making optimal investments and strategic business decisions. Audrey has a decade of experience in helping companies solve unique problems and creating long-term impact with unconventional approaches. Before joining Antheia, she was at Vir Biotechnology and Merck where she led various FP&A workstreams, including investment valuation, asset prioritization, and manufacturing sites operation finance support. Audrey completed CFA Level II and passed the U.S. CPA exam in 2011.

Antonij Tjahjadi, CPA

Head of Accounting

Antonij Tjahjadi leads accounting at Antheia and holds active CPA license. He joined Antheia with more than 20 years of experience in corporate accounting, bringing deep expertise in ramping up accounting operations for start-up companies, SEC reporting/technical accounting, and SOX implementation efforts. Before joining Antheia, he held various leading roles in both public and private company settings, including directing accounting functions at Ambys Medicines, where he successfully implemented Netsuite with Point Purchasing integration and set up various accounting policies and processes, and played a key role in the initial public offering of Nutanix, Inc.

Ken Takeoka

Head of Biology

Ken leads the Biology team at Antheia, which incorporates both strain and protein engineering functions. He has more than 16 years of experience in the synthetic biology field, working with leading companies, including Amyris and Novartis. One of his passions is molecular biology tool development and he previously worked to build the foundation for the automated strain engineering pipeline at Amyris. At Novartis, he modernized the molecular biology techniques and established a platform to model mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in a range of organisms.

Suzanne Sato

Head of Downstream Processing

Suzy leads downstream chemistry processes at Antheia. She has 19 years of experience in process development, including route development through synthetic chemistry and scale-up of small molecule APIs for GPCR targets under cGMP for Phase I-III trials. Before joining Antheia, Suzy led a full DSP team at Amyris where she successfully pivoted developments from biofuels hydrocarbon products to pharmaceutical intermediate, flavor, fragrance and nutraceutical products. She led a team that scaled 11 products and took five products to commercial manufacturing.

Farrah Pulce, PMP

Head of Project Management

Farrah leads program and project management at Antheia. She has over 20 years of experience leading program and project management, operations, and engineering for companies across the CPG, aerospace, and automotive industries. Prior to joining Antheia, Farrah implemented and led the sustaining program management team at Impossible Foods. She also led product operations, project management, and cost optimization at Blue Bottle Coffee and Tyson Foods to develop and commercialize new products. As a certified project management professional (PMP), Farrah has a proven record of successful project delivery, improving project management practices, and building collaborative teams.

Jordyn Lee

Head of Communications

Jordyn leads communications and external affairs at Antheia. She brings a decade of multidisciplinary communications experience in helping companies make complex science and technology accessible to broad audiences, all while maintaining technical accuracy and integrity. She has a passion for visionary storytelling and translating impact across the entire communications ecosystem – her work has spanned from public relations to corporate communications to marketing. Jordyn has served as an advisor to a number of different life sciences companies and most recently led corporate communications at Amyris.

Ben Kotopka, PhD

Head of Data Science

As Head of Data Science at Antheia, Ben manages in-house software development and external partnerships for storing and interpreting research data, executing bioinformatics analyses, and streamlining business processes. Prior to Antheia, Ben worked as an academic researcher at the intersection of machine learning, bioinformatics, and synthetic biology. Following this, as an entrepreneur and consultant, he developed and deployed data science solutions for biotechnology applications ranging from metabolomics-driven compound discovery to MRI segmentation.

Guerin Kob

Head of Supply Chain

Guerin is responsible for leading the design, development, management and improvement of Antheia’s end-to-end global supply chain. He has over 15 years of experience leading high-performing supply chain and procurement teams at leading biotechnology and specialty chemical companies, with extensive experience in process development and end-to-end supply chain optimization. Prior to joining Antheia, Guerin served as Senior Director of Global Supply Chain for Sumitomo Chemical’s biotechnology division with Valent Biosciences, where he led the end-to end supply chain including procurement, logistics and distribution, integrated business planning, materials management, customer service, and supply planning functions globally.

Pavel Aronov, PhD

Head of Bioanalytics

Pavel leads the Bioanalytics team at Antheia. He has 20 years of experience in analytical and clinical chemistry, mass spectrometry, chromatography, and metabolomics. Pavel built and led the original Chemistry and Analytics team at Impossible Foods enabling strain development, fermentation, DSP, regulatory, QC, and scale-up of leghemoglobin biomanufacturing. During his academic career at UC Davis and Stanford University Pavel developed a vitamin D assay used by all major clinical diagnostics laboratories and pioneered metabolomics studies to investigate kidney disease and microbiome.

Jesse Ahrendt

Head of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs

Jesse has more than 25 years of experience in regulatory affairs, quality systems, manufacturing quality, and regulated industries, ranging from early- to late-stage pharmaceuticals, biomanufacturing, consumer care, and medical devices. He has supported global product launches and the underlying quality supply chain components in industries that require strict adherence to internationally accepted quality standards. Before Antheia, he led quality efforts at Zymergen and Sandoz, and supported many global pharmaceutical companies during his time in Biotech Consulting at NSF International, all to bring quality to the forefront in manufacturing, standardize global processes, and support customer regulatory requirements.

Heidi Pucel

Chief People Officer

Heidi is a results-driven human resources executive and HR business partner who leverages decades of experience in empowering, motivating, and inspiring to drive transformation within high-performing and rapidly-growing workforces. A certified executive coach and passionate advocate for people-oriented solutions, Pucel serves as a partner to executive teams to design programs that support employee development, engagement, and recruitment and retention. Pucel most recently served as Chief People Officer for Countsy, where she worked as an interim HR executive for clients in the biotechnology and software industries, such as Ceribell and Tune Therapeutics.

Zack McGahey

Chief Operating Officer

Zack is a leading executive in operations management, specializing in bioprocess engineering and manufacturing management. He has over 20 years of experience leading manufacturing functions for companies across the pharmaceutical, synthetic biology, diagnostics, and automotive industries. Before joining Antheia, Zack was VP of manufacturing and capex project management at Zymergen. He also gained experience managing commercial scale facilities operations for Tesla, where he was responsible for managing 10 million square feet of factory, lab and warehouse space during the Model 3 ramp.

Kristy Hawkins, PhD

Co-Founder & CSO

Kristy has over 20 years of experience in the field of synthetic biology, focusing on yeast metabolic engineering for the production of small molecules. She did the founding work on the benzylisoquinoline alkaloid pathway during her graduate studies and gained valuable industry experience at Amyris and Lygos. Kristy is an expert in tool development, high-throughput screening, and host strain and heterologous pathway engineering.

Christina Smolke, PhD

Co-Founder & CEO

Christina is a pioneer in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, where she has over 20 years of experience. As Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, her laboratory led the breakthrough research to engineer baker’s yeast to produce some of the most complex and valuable medicines known. Under her leadership, Antheia’s synthetic biology platform enables new possibilities for drug discovery and efficient, sustainable, transparent, and on-demand drug manufacturing at scale. Her vision and accomplishments have garnered numerous awards, including the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator, NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Nature’s 10, Novozymes Award for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering, and TR35 Award.

Antheia Announces Continued Partnership with Olon

Appropriate regulatory submissions will be prepared and submitted to support Antheia’s customers who need to reference and access necessary process-related information.