New Role Created for Biobased Products Initiative

ISU Biorenewables Research Laboratory

The following article was initially published on Oct. 28, 2019 via Iowa State Daily

By Alec Giljohann, Iowa State Daily

Iowa State has created the new role of chief technology officer for biobased products as part of the biosciences-based economic growth initiative of the State of Iowa.

Sundeep Vani has been welcomed to Iowa State to take on the new position. According to a press release, Vani will work as a bridge between research and industry.

Vani will work with Brent Shanks, a distinguished professor in the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, as well as his team and the Iowa Innovation Corp.

“The chief technology officer is a lynchpin position that plays a vital role in accelerating translation of emerging technologies,” Shanks said in the news release.

Shanks also said they conducted a national search to find a candidate for the position who understands the science and technology of the biobased products portfolio. Candidates needed extensive industry experience to qualify.

“I’m excited to join Iowa State in this mission to grow Iowa’s economy through the state’s overall Biosciences initiative,” Vani said in the news release. “Iowa has the production, agriculture and biotechnology assets and the expertise and research infrastructure — including the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, Bioeconomy Institute, Center for Crop Utilization Research and BioCentury Research Farm — to lead the nation in the development of new value-added Biobased Product solutions.”

According to the news release, Vani received his doctorate in chemical engineering from Rice University and his Master of Business Administration from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. He has 21 years of experience in industrial biotechnology. Vani has spent the past two years as an independent consultant, advising venture capital firms, serving as a member of the advisory board and advising large multinationals. He has served in various positions focused on technology with Archer Daniels Midland Co. — one of which being the role of technology director.

Shanks said in the news release that Vani checks all the boxes they were searching for and that they are delighted to welcome him to Iowa State.

Sarah Nusser, vice president for research, said in the news release that they firmly believe a key to success in advancing biobased products is to expand the nationally renowned innovation ecosystem.

“Bringing [Vani] onboard as [chief technology officer] is a critical step in affirming Iowa as an innovation leader in Biobased Products and will help accelerate technology transfer from the research labs of Iowa State to the marketplace served by Iowa-based companies,” Nusser said in the news release.

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