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Meet the Team – Our RA, Cat Cleto


We’re excited for the next interview in our “Meet the Team” series! We hear from Cat Cleto, a Fermentation Research Associate, on her path from the world of retail to biotech and what she’s looking forward to over the next year.

Tell us a little about your background and the path to Antheia.

Prior to working at Antheia, I worked as the floor manager of a retail store. I learned so many skills from balancing a job and going to school full-time, from time management and effective communication to the importance of being proactive instead of reactive.

While I was working and going to school, I was also volunteering. Volunteering has always been important to me – growing up, I was considered an “at-risk” student because I lacked mentorship, so I make an effort to be a mentor to other “at-risk” youths. It was actually through volunteering that my interest in science was first piqued. During school, one of my volunteering roles was as a lab technician – if you can’t tell, I like to stay busy! Science was always a subject I was interested in, but having hands-on experience solidified it as a career path for me, so I decided to major in biology.

After graduation, I applied to Antheia as a fermentation technician, but during the interview process, a few people told me I should consider applying for a new position they were creating in operations. I ended up in an operations role where I provided support for all departments, but found that I loved being in fermentation the most. I come from a family of mechanics and I always would help with cars – my afternoon job in high school was at my uncle’s repair shop. So I always had an interest in equipment and fermentation bioreactors filled that niche.

My manager, Yen Nguyen, and the rest of the fermentation saw that I loved being part of this team. They spent a lot of time training and mentoring me, so I was able to step into my current position of full-time fermentation role.

What is your job and what does your typical day look like?

I’m a fermentation RA, which means I execute all of the fermentation experiments and make sure that our experiments are on track throughout a week.

It’s a fun job because every day is different! The lab always works in tiered shifts since the bioreactors have to be monitored all day, so we come in at different times. Mondays are personally my favorite day. Since I work the midday shifts on Mondays, I’m crucial in facilitating the communication between the morning and night crews. I start off my day by syncing with the morning workers about the day’s priorities and identifying any potential issues. From there, I can go about my tasks and then brief the night crew so they’re fully set up for success. I’m big on communication and collaboration, and both are a necessity in the lab, especially on Mondays when we’re setting the schedule and priorities for the week. I love stepping into a coordinating role and making sure everyone is on the same page.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working with Yen, my manager and a fermentation scientist.

Yen and I have worked together since I started at Antheia and she has been instrumental in developing the skills I needed to transition into working in a fermentation role full time.

Yen knows that I need to stay engaged and challenged at work, so when we sit down for our one-on-one meetings, we always talk about what I want to learn. She helps me identify the new technical skills I want to conquer so that I can keep taking on bigger challenges. In addition to being a mentor to me, she is also just a really effective manager and an amazing leader.

What is your high-level impact at Antheia?

I’ve had the biggest impact on lab operations. When I joined Antheia, the company had just moved into a new space, so I had the opportunity to design and implement an organizational system for the lab. I worked closely with our co-founder and our operations manager to create standardized operating procedures, which has really helped us increase quality control and cut down on the onboarding time for new employees. Having SOPs, anyone coming into a lab ops role knows exactly what they should be doing.

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

Definitely the larger sustainability implications of our work. Instead of growing medicinal crops abroad and dealing with unreliable weather patterns or supply chains, we can put yeast in a bioreactor and create medicine in a few days, using less arable land and burning less fossil fuels in the process. We’re shifting the drug development process from years to weeks, and that seems so futuristic.

We see you’ve already had two different roles within Antheia – what allowed you to have such a quick professional growth trajectory time at Antheia?

The collaborative environment and emphasis on mentorship has really allowed me to grow during my time here. When I was first hired on, the team was pretty small, so I was trained by senior employees who took the time to walk me through operations in detail. Early on, I interacted with every single Antheia employee, so I was able to develop relationships with the whole team. I’m a naturally curious person, and because of those relationships, I felt comfortable going up to someone and asking them a million questions about their work if I thought it was interesting.

I think that’s one of the best parts about working for a startup – you have the chance to find what interests you and then define your role around that. You’re able to create your own path. I love that I feel empowered to join projects that are interesting to me, and that there is always an opportunity to learn more.

Interested in working with Cat and the rest of the fermentation team? Take a look at our current open positions.

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.