Alex Hutagalung, PhD
Chief Executive Officer
Hutagalung is a scientist with more than 12 years of expertise in engineering yeast for industrial fermentation processes. Alex received his PhD in Biochemistry from Baylor College of Medicine while studying chaperone and muscle biology in the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. He obtained a postdoctoral fellowship to study the cell biology and mechanisms of exocytosis in yeast at Yale University and UC San Diego. His professional career in metabolic engineering and industrial biotechnology started at Verdezyne, an industrial biotechnology company producing nylon intermediates using genetically engineered yeast. The raw material for the process was fatty acids derived from the vegetable oil industry. From Verdezyne, Alex started Levadura Biotechnology with Pyrone Systems co-founder Brian Conn to produce cannabinoids from fatty acids and developed the technology to secure a patent for the process. He recognized the unique advantages of using fatty acids as a substrate and the general applicability of the patent led to the pivot towards producing the small polyketide triacetic acid lactone (TAL) from fatty acids as the starting point for Pyrone Systems.
Steve Bessette, JD
Chief Business Officer
Steve founded EcoSMART - The Safe Pesticide Brand in 1996, and he pioneered the introduction of botanical pest control products as effective alternatives to conventional synthetic pesticides. Steve served as President and Chief Technology Officer of EcoSMART for more than 15 years, and he chaired the company’s Scientific Advisory Panel and basic research program for 25 years, securing in excess of 60 patents globally. In addition, Steve successfully managed the complex regulatory framework for botanical pesticides, including the first ever EPA approved safety claim allowed on a pesticide label. EcoSMART remains the only global brand offering a complete line of EPA exempt safe pesticides for multiple market segments.
In 2021, Steve co-founded Pyrone Systems, a new venture focused on the biosynthesis of certain molecules that provide valuable pathways to novel compounds, including a next generation botanical insecticide. Steve received his J.D. from Boston University School Law and his B.S. in Accounting, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Rhode Island.
Chief Financial Officer
Brian Conn has served as the CFO of numerous biotech companies over the past twenty years. The majority of these firms have been in the startup phase or early stages of growth where stress levels are high, and everyone wears many hats. During his career, Brian has raised about $300 million for his companies and completed 20 M&A deals. Currently, Brian is an advisor/CFO to several companies including; Quantapore, a genomic sequencing company, Switchback Systems, a DNA synthesis company, PhenoVista, a drug discovery services company, AlivaMab, an antibody discovery company, and MD2, a preclinical oncology drug startup. He is also an advisor for the VC firm General Inception and serves on the board of the Australian biotech company, BioSensis. Brian is a co-founder of the synthetic biology startup, Pyrone Systems.
Prior to his current ventures, Brian successfully listed Imagion Biosystems on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2017 and helped organize the company’s first clinical trial, which is underway now. From 2011 to 2016, Brian was the CFO of Verdezyne, a San Diego synthetic biology company where he secured funding and negotiated contracts for a large-scale project in Malaysia.
Within the biotech space, Brian has worked in pharma, diagnostics, life science tools, medical devices and synthetic biology and overseen not only Finance but also bus dev, marketing, legal, IT and manufacturing operations.
Brent Shanks, PhD
Chief Technical Officer
Brent Shanks is a Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at Iowa State University and Director of the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC). Following his doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, he worked for over a decade at Shell Chemical Company. He has extensive experience with biobased chemical research and development and been involved with several early-stage startups.