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Meet the Team – Our Lab Operations Team

For the final installation in our “Meet the Team” series, we hear from Olivia, Khurram and Vicky, who lead our operations. This team is the key to ensuring Antheia’s labs are running successfully and efficiently. Read on to learn about this behind-the-scenes team that keeps everything moving smoothly.

How did you end up at Antheia? What does your typical day look like?

Olivia: I started my career in biotech as a scientist, but transitioned to an operations role so that I could wear more hats and focus on a wider range of tasks during my day-to-day. Having now worked in operations for a number of different companies, I still get excited by the opportunity to support scientists throughout all stages of their work.

I’ve been at Antheia for almost three years now, and as the Head of Lab Ops, my goal is to make sure everything in the labs run successfully. This means everything from preparing media and plates, keeping track of inventory to maintain the various instruments used in experiments.

Khurram: Like Olivia, my background is also in R&D, where I learned a great deal about maintaining and supporting both equipment and people. I worked in a few different industries like solar and batteries, but always found biopharma especially interesting, so the opportunity to join Antheia was perfect for applying my experience in a new field.

My days involve me running around the lab. One of my primary responsibilities is preparing the lab – making sure all of the equipment is functioning properly, regular maintenance is happening and materials are stocked and ready to go.

Vicky: My background is different – I studied to be a radiology technologist. I was obsessed with biology as a kid and getting into the healthcare field seemed like a natural extension of that passion. I accepted the job from Antheia because I found myself resonating with Antheia’s vision for the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing. As part of the ops team, my job is to ensure that when the scientists get in the lab, their work is efficient and their experiments go smoothly.

What is one thing you want people to know about your job?

Vicky: Something I’ve realized recently is that

everyone depends on us. If we don’t bring stock or prepare something, the scientists can’t do their jobs effectively and that ultimately can slow the progress. It’s unique to have a position where so many colleagues depend on you.

Khurram: I agree with Vicky – Ops is really the backbone of the company. If I had to sum up our job in one word, it would be “surprise.” There’s always something new being thrown my way, like machines needing repair or vendors dealing with supply issues. Juggling lab work with other tasks means that I always have something interesting to do. I take a lot of pride in making sure our team is set up for success.

Olivia: Our team is always “hiding” in the background to ensure everything runs smoothly. A successful day for me is when we come in, do our job, answer questions and there is no emergency. But even if we have a problem, the ops team is prepared to address it. The fact that we’re ready to jump in and solve problems at a moment’s notice means we’re well-equipped for our jobs.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Olivia: I actually like when issues come up and the ops team can solve it. Not only does that make me feel like a hero, but it’s exciting and rewarding to troubleshoot problems for the team. To give you an example: Our lab boiler wouldn’t turn on a few weekends ago. Our team helped troubleshoot and was fortunately able to resolve the issue early Monday morning, which prevented interruption to our week-long fermentation runs. Imagine how disruptive this could have been!

Khurram: Oh man, I remember the boiler debacle. Obviously, that was a problem that had to be corrected immediately but even if it’s a small problem we’re solving, it’s so important to fix them quickly and effectively for the scientific team to continue their work. I enjoy how hands-on my job is and since the lab has so much equipment, I always have a chance to flex those skills.

Vicky: I also like how hands-on my job is – I definitely get my workout in running around! Something else I really appreciate is how closely I work with the scientists to prepare experiments alongside them. I’m newer to the industry and constantly learning – getting the opportunity to learn more about biology and chemistry is invaluable.

What is the most exciting aspect of Antheia’s innovation?

Khurram: I’ve always wanted to work at a company that is building a better future and I’ve found that at Antheia. Antheia is trying to change the way medicine is made so that we can produce the medicines we need without relying entirely on the plant itself. Being a part of this journey so far has been incredible and I’m excited to be part of the team that will see it through.

Vicky: I’m in the same boat as Khurram – I am impressed that Antheia is not only trying to make essential medicines in a new way, but also improve the quality of the active ingredients. With my background in healthcare, I’ve seen firsthand how drug shortages, as well as subpar or impure medicines, can impact patients, so I feel personally driven by Antheia’s mission.

Olivia: I agree – it’s so important to work for a company that’s work aligns with your values. I’d add that Antheia’s work is also extremely challenging and you see the team is pushing itself and succeeding. I think this comes from our leadership – Kristy, our CSO, is an accomplished scientist and is always innovating unique ways to solve challenges. This type of leadership is vital to the progress being made every day.

Interested in learning more about our team? Read about our Scientist (Ken), RA (Cat) and Engineer (Yuki).

*Photo credits: Daniel Yim

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 Completes Successful Product Validation

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