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Introducing Yen-Hsiang Wang, Antheia’s VP of Strategy and Partnerships

As the Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships, Yen-Hsiang Wang is the strategic powerhouse behind Antheia, tasked with bringing its technology and pipeline of products from ideation into realization. As a catalyst for the commercial viability of Antheia’s technology into the pharma world, this scientific innovator-turned-business leader combines his deep bench of scientific expertise in synthetic biology with lessons learned in the business world to drive the company’s success. 

With some promising announcements on Antheia’s horizon, Yen-Hsiang recently sat down to share his thoughts on technology, innovation, strategy, and how safe workplaces support dynamic company growth.

You wear many hats in Antheia – strategy, partnerships and finance – and are responsible for bringing its innovations to life in the commercial space. But you actually began your career as a biologist and engineer. What inspired you to move from research to strategy? 

I’ve always liked to design things, but I’ve also always been interested in deciphering biology, which is still in my opinion the most sophisticated system ever. I started off my career trajectory in undergrad while working with an economist on a neuroengineering project, where I designed a novel approach to underpin the neural mechanism for strategic thinking in our brain. Even then, I saw myself as an engineer specialized in the field of biology. That work was eventually published in Science, which helped get me into Stanford. It was 2008 when synthetic biology had just started to take off and engineering genetic information and designing proteins or enzymes in all living organisms was becoming more accessible. I was immediately “distracted” – if you can call being fascinated by this amazing field being distracted! – and enamored by the idea that you can take a structural approach to studying and building biology, and that you could even apply it in an effort to improve human wellbeing. 

However, it was also a period of time where the industry was navigating a better way to commercialize this cutting edge technology. By this point, I knew that I understood the fundamentals and rhythm of R&D, and I knew I could be a good scientist but I was curious to learn more about the business side of synbio. I wondered if I would be able to make a difference in bridging the gap between this technology and its real world applications. That’s what brought me to this point, and it’s what I strive to do. Make a difference by being the person who bridges the gap between business and deep science innovation in synbio. Once I took the leap toward the business side of things, I began experimenting with various business roles at McKinsey and later Tencent, which eventually led to Antheia. 

One would think that it’s important for people in your role to have a scientific background to truly understand the work. What does bridging the gap between deep science and business look like, in a practical sense, and how do you think your scientific and research background informs it?

I’m a believer that everybody’s a scientist. Science is about being inquisitive and reasonable, and thinking through challenges in a structured approach. It’s critical thinking, and collecting and analyzing information before solving problems. What’s particularly important for anyone in this type of role is a desire to learn the science while embracing open and growth mindsets – because the most demanding type of startup is deep science innovation, and it requires all of those things. Working in any scientific field often means that there are many unknowns, but we’re driven toward exploration because we  believe that what we’re doing can make the world better. Synthetic biology, machine learning, or quantum computing – you name it; experimentation, failure, and iteration are inherent to all of these fields and critical for driving innovation. 

It’s apparent to anyone who knows you that this lights you up, and is your passion. 

Absolutely. I get a lot of energy from those bridging moments where I have to consider our stakeholders, constraints, and opportunities, and within it, find a path forward. It is extremely rewarding to find those ways to make the equation work and bridge both sides – science and business – of innovation. It means our work will make a realistic and tangible impact. That’s the engineer in me – wanting to make the intangible, tangible. 

I also especially enjoy my role at Antheia because the constant leap between science and business requires almost a holistic, hawk-eyed perspective, and it’s one I’ve carefully honed in myself. As a scientist, you’re trained to think about problems from mostly bottom-up approaches, where you have to amass a lot of research before taking actions. When it comes to business, it is often hypothesis-driven and making decisions with limited, imperfect information. It took a lot of practice to integrate this duality of thinking, switching back and forth between the two perspectives. I find it very helpful and incredibly useful when brainstorming or offering insights to our team, understanding that each of the next-steps come with certain rewards and risks. To me, it is a privilege to drive those strategic decisions and creative solutions, while matching technological progress. 

What are Antheia’s greatest opportunities? And what are you most passionate about for Antheia’s future along that pathway? 

Personally, I just love Antheia’s technology so much. I’m a big fan of AI, robotics, and synthetic biology and how it allows us to design something hardcore. I like to point to my fandom of sci-fi films (e.g., Westworld) here, because it’s an imaginative world where innovative technology and biology comes together. What Antheia’s doing is a small piece of a similarly huge puzzle, only, it’s real. We’re engineering yeast, which is one of the tiniest and simplest organisms, and doing so at the cutting edge of a thriving deep science technology, all in a big biology setup. While it can still seem very uncertain, the flipside is that the possibilities are endless. 

That’s where Antheia’s biggest opportunity lies; we’re sitting within a very unique space, with huge potential, at a really important time. Our team has been working on this technology for strengthening pharma supply chains for decades, and when the pandemic started, it demonstrated how urgent the problem of medicine shortages is. Our technology is an amazing way to disrupt how people approach drug development and discovery. 

What’s Antheia’s biggest challenge in bringing that to life?

Deep science technology carries a lot of uncertainty and risk, and this entire industry is working on getting the right calibration to achieve success. That takes a little bit longer than industry investors and partners prefer. A core challenge for every synthetic biology company is  navigating those timelines while maintaining our bold vision and aspirations. One thing that helps Antheia is as we head toward our goals, that we communicate the significant progress we are making to bring our vision to life. Driving innovative technology means we need to be planning ahead to meet upcoming needs, while still maintaining a flexible approach to pivot if needed. Ultimately, in this field, nothing is as linear as it looks like.  

What do you see as the trajectory for Antheia’s future? 

The next two years are critical for us, and the work that comes from it is going to rewrite biology and engineering textbooks. We’ll be pushing our lead program and moving toward commercialization. When our first successful demo run is done, it’s going to be a massive milestone that will make history. Longer term, we envision remaining in a leadership position with our platform, which is going to radically change what’s possible for manufacturing medicine around the globe. This technology can impact entire countries, including developing countries, and will improve human rights. There are many countries that don’t have adequate supply of essential medicines that are critical in reducing human suffering. I see Antheia as the company that will change that.

Your personal connection to the founding team including Christina, who was your PhD advisor, was the reason you say you came to Antheia. But going from corporate to a startup is a different, more challenging experience. What made you say yes, and what keeps you here? 

My previous role at Tencent was amazing. I co-led the AI Healthcare Center, working with a lot of great scientists and engineers to drive machine learning applications in smart medical devices, drug discovery, and telehealth care. With the resources of large corporations, I was able to focus on driving strategic directions; however, this is far from a true startup experience where you are working with more limited resources and wear many different hats (there was even a period of time at Antheia where I was processing all the invoices and tracking IT inventory).  But I could have joined any startup with a similar mission. The trigger point for me, as I still vividly recall, was the exact moment chatting with Christina in a cafe in Menlo Park. She was describing how she, a prestigious professor at Stanford, was planning to leave her tenured position to make Antheia a reality. My thought was, here’s this person I deeply respect, and she has just an outstanding commitment to the company’s success. If I ever want to sign up for a true startup experience, this is the leader I would want to work with. Hiccups or setbacks happen in every company and challenges emerge as technologies progress – but to have a truly committed, passionate leader sets a company apart, and ahead.   

What keeps me here is not just the fulfilling work I do, but the culture and environment. We have a culture of transparency, and it applies to all of us. In my role, I meet every one of the new hires and establish direct relationships with them so that they know we’re a team, and I work hard to make sure that everyone knows that I’m here to support them as a trusted thought partner and sounding board. For me, Antheia is a humble and safe space where we feel comfortable and even encouraged to think about crazy ideas – I feel protected, and that drives innovation in a way that’s unparalleled. I want that for all of my colleagues as well. 

If there’s just one thing you’d like others to take away about Antheia, what would it be?

I am going to my favorite quote from Hans Christian Anderson: Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower. It’s so simple. At Antheia, we don’t have to convince ourselves that we’re doing crazy innovative stuff, because we are. We can be comfortable in that notion and who we are and experience the freedom to explore and innovate here. It grows the best flowers. And yeast. 

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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.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visits Antheia to discuss biotechnology innovation

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