Spartina Biotechnologies

Executive Officers

PAUL LAUR | CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Paul has worked in biotech since 2008 when he was the founder and CEO of Eldorado Biofuels where he met Dr. Sayre as a Principal Investigator for the National Association for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium. Paul also founded Santa Fe Cider Company, was Director of Operations at Anguilla Rums, and Director of Corporate Development at Pebble Labs. Paul holds a USCG Master Mariner’s license and spent over twenty years sailing around the world on ocean racing sailboats and cargo ships. He completed his master’s degree at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, and his B.S. at California Maritime Academy. He currently serves on the Boards of the NM Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, Ponderous Panda Capital Corporation, and the Pecos River Resolution Corporation.

RICHARD SAYRE, PH.D. | CO-FOUNDER & CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER

Dr. Sayre completed his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa on photosynthetic carbon metabolism and three postdoc studies in molecular biophysics, membrane protein chemistry, and molecular genetics at Florida State University, University of Kentucky, and Harvard University. He was an academic professor in Biochemistry and Plant Biology at Ohio State University where he was later named Chairman of the Department of Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology. Dr. Sayre was the first Director of the Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis before joining the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a Senior Research Scientist – 6. In 2016, Dr. Sayre helped co-found Pebble Labs (RNAi – based pathogen control) and in 2017, Trait Biosciences (Cannabis biotechnology) while serving both companies as Chief Scientific Officer. He has directed multiple major research programs including the BioCassava Plus program for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on the biofortification of cassava to alleviate malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. He led a project on lipid-based algal and plant biofuels for the Dept. of Energy (DOE) Energy Frontier Research Center and served as Scientific Director of the DOE-sponsored National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts focusing on commercial production of algal-based biofuels. Dr. Sayre has authored over 140 peer-reviewed research publications, 350 invited presentations, and over 60 patents (issued and pending).

TONY TONTAT – CHIEF FINANCE OFFICER
Tony has been a bulge bracket investment banker and an institutional investor for more than a decade, specializing in publicly listed healthcare companies in the USA and other large developed markets. Tony’s practice of exhaustive due diligence on the companies and their products included traveling to more than 60 medical conferences each year to review product launches, assess product risks, and analyze their success factors.

This has led to a deep knowledge of healthcare and a deep set of industry contacts in healthcare leadership, regulatory leadership, and expert trial physicians.  In 2009, observing the US FDA regulatory trends which favored many medical device companies to first launch in the EU with a CE Mark approval before coming to the US, Tony transitioned his work interest primarily toward Europe. He currently works with start-up medical device companies (European and American) from Paris and travels to major European, Middle East, and Asian capitals. His current funding projects include healthcare start-ups in informatics, biotechnology, and medical devices.

Science Leadership

HELIN ALAGOZ | SENIOR RESEARCH TECHNICIAN
Helin studied Bioengineering at Istanbul Technical University and received her BS in Bioengineering at Montana State University in Bozeman. She was a research assistant at the Center for Biofilm Engineering in Great Falls, MT prior to coming to New Mexico where she was a research assistant for Pebble Labs and Trait Biosciences engineering endophytic bacteria to control viral, fungal, and bacterial diseases and herbivores in plants and animals.

WATARU NISHIMA | BIOINFORMATICS SCIENTIST
Wataru has more than 12 years of professional research experience including detail-oriented computational design of cytokine/enzyme with Rosetta framework (Protein design, Ab initio/homology/loop modeling, Sequence/structural analysis, Statistical analysis). Investigated biological phenomenon and proposed mechanism in the context of T4-phage infection, Ebola/Zika virus prefusion-fusion transition, multi-drug resistance, GATA4 human gene with MD, and QM/MM simulations. Developed methodologies such as characterization of complex N-glycan conformation. Always led creative solutions to tackle challenging new/unresolved problems with unique ideas/analysis and solid advanced computation skills (Parallel computing / Database) including the experience of massive computing usage (>500,000 cpu cores). 

ELENA SINEVA | SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST
Elena received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Bar Ilan University. She completed postdocs at Penn State University and UTMB in yeast gene repair and has served as a scientist and research professor at Rutgers University, UC San Diego and at Penn State University prior to coming to Los Alamos, New Mexico where she served as a Senior Research Scientist for Pebble Labs.

Elena has expertise in molecular and general microbiology, molecular cloning and genetics, site-directed, random and saturation mutagenesis, bacterial genome editing, yeast genetics, and sequencing. She also has expertise in RNA in vitro transcription; RNA-DNA EMSA, footprinting and labeling; and RTqPCR Northern blots

TATIANA VINOGRADOVA-SHAH | SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST
Tatiana (Tanya) received her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Cardiology Research Center in Moscow, Russia. Her expertise is in cell and developmental biology.

She worked at the New Mexico Consortium, Little Fly Labs, and Pebble Labs in New Mexico prior to joining Spartina Biotechnologies.  Her expertise lies in molecular biology, molecular cloning, and genetics, bacterial genome editing. She has expertise in RNAi (dsRNA/siRNA/asRNA) applications for gene silencing in bacteria and mammalian cell cultures.

Scientific Advisory Board

STEPHEN HEDRICK, PH.D. | SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
Stephen Hedrick is a molecular biologist with a wealth of experience in the field of immunology and a unique insight into the understanding of how immune systems in organisms evolve in concert with pathogens.

Stephen received his Ph.D. from the University of California and conducted his postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is the Distinguished Professor, Chancellor’s Associates Chair in Biological Sciences at UC San Diego where he has been for more than 30 years. His research work focuses on the regulation of the immune system including cell death, signal transduction, and evolution.

RICHARD A JORGENSEN, PH.D. | SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
Richard is a molecular geneticist and an early pioneer in the study of post-transcriptional gene silencing. His expertise in RNA interference (RNAi) plays a vital role in Spartina’s patented Siren™ technology.

Richard holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, and an M.S. in Chemistry and a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. He was awarded Martin Gibbs Medal from the American Society of Plant Biologists for pioneering work leading to the discovery of RNAi and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Society of Plant Biologists. He was named an Endowed Chair for Excellence in Agriculture and Life Sciences by the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona. Dr. Joregensen was honored wit the Outstanding University Achievement award at the University of Arizona, for his leadership of the iPlant Collaborative, the largest NSF grant ($50 million/5 years) ever awarded to the State of Arizona and has received numerous awards and recognitions for his RNAi work.

JOHN SCHOGGINS, M.D. | SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
Dr. John Schoggins is an endowed profession of immunology and medical molecular microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Schoggins earned his BS in Chemistry from the University of Rochester and earned his graduate degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell University Medical College.  His research interests are in host-pathogen interactions, innate immune response to viral infection, viral pathogenesis and host genetic determinants, virus reporters (fluorescent/luminescent) and host screening technology (CRISPR, cDNA), virus-host interactions; evolutionary conflicts in mammals.