Team


Integrated Talent

Innovative, experienced, and integrated: Heliae brings together more than 100 associates with a variety of talents and experience who are primarily focused in one of five key areas. Here you can read more about each of these areas and some of our Associates. Click on the Associate images below to learn more about their views or qualifications.

Research & Development


Our world-class R&D team applies innovative thinking and cross-discipline expertise to unlock the potential of a variety of algae strains and other biological platforms and organisms. Here are just a few of the nearly 40 associates that make up Heliae’s R&D team.

Ravi Vannela, Ph.D.

Sr. Engineer, Process Integration


In addition to the skills Ravi acquired earning his Ph.D. in Biotechnology from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Ravi possesses 14 years of hands-on experience in developing algae growth systems. Ravi has extensive interdisciplinary post-doctoral experience at Iowa State University and University of Michigan prior to joining Arizona State University as a Research Professor. Ravi’s industry experience has primarily focused on process development, down-stream processing, and scale-up of algae production systems. Ravi currently implements integrated systems engineering approach to large scale outdoor ponds, interfacing biology with engineering.

Luke Cizek

Development Production Manager


Luke completed academic studies focused on molecular plant biology and biochemistry at Arizona State University. At Heliae, Luke focuses on the development of novel and reliable platforms for algal cultures, including the design and performance optimization of algal bioreactors.

Dr. Eneko Ganuza

R&D Microbiology Manager


Eneko is a lead scientist and a key innovator in the area of mixotrophy, one of the primary technology differentiators at Heliae. With nearly 10 years’ experience in the algae production industry, Eneko is now leading Heliae’s efforts to use the full potential of the metabolic versatility that is distinctive to microalgae. As a PhD student at the University of Hull (UK) and University of Las Palmas (Spain), Eneko’s work on the synthesis of omega-3 fatty acid by heterotrophic microalgae was received with honors by a Nobel-Laureate led panel acting on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Mike LaMont

Director of R&D Systems


"What I like about Heliae is its mission, how we approach our work and our integrity. Many ‘sustainable solutions’ have appeared in the past 20+ years, but algae has real potential to be a sustainable solution that works. While growing algae is challenging, with those challenges come great rewards. Heliae utilizes cross functional working groups that share a common goal; to successfully resolve issues and grow algae at commercial scale. Heliae is dedicated to data driven, tangible results. We are willing to do the work and provide only reliable products with proven results."

Alex Sitek

Development Engineer


"My goal for algae technology is that it will evolve over time to provide sustainable, real solutions to problems across the globe, and to open new opportunities to improve the lives of people."


Operations


Every day our experienced operations team works hand-in-hand with R&D to produce products at commercial scale for our customers and partners. Our operations team includes a talented staff of scientists and engineers with significant algae science and production expertise, a few of whom are highlighted below.

Travis J. Muff, PhD

Molecular Biologist


Travis received a BS in Biochemistry from Iowa State University and earned his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he studied signal transduction in bacteria. After completing his Ph.D., Travis completed post-doctoral studies on bacterial sporulation at The Scripps Research Institute and algal transcription factors and gene expression with Dr. Stephen Mayfield at the University of California, San Diego. At Heliae, Travis works on analyzing and quantifying recombinant proteins produced in algae and genotyping algae strains.

Craig Erny

Associate Director of Manufacturing


Craig graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. After nearly a decade of working in a variety of areas for Tate & Lyle, a global ingredient manufacturer for food, beverage, and other industries, Craig brought that experience to Heliae to facilitate the development of our large scale production facilities. Craig now manages many aspects of Heliae’s large scale production assets.

John Cefola

Director of Engineering


John brings over 25 years of engineering experience in a wide variety of industries. John called upon this experience in leading the development of Heliae’s first production facility. In his current role, John leads an expert core engineering team in developing, designing, and implementing a new generation of algae production facilities for Heliae in the US and abroad.

Matthew Olson

Algae Production Manager


"It’s exciting to work for Heliae, not only for the opportunity to work with some amazing strains of algae but to be a part of something that will change the world as well."

Mason Oelschlager

Development Engineer


"Algae based products have a diverse and abundant future market potential. Hundreds of thousands of natural algae species exist in nature. The complexity of algae makes it a great organism for genetic modification as well, which compounds the potential product range we can anticipate coming from these organisms. Heliae is developing technology platforms today that in the future will support the production of any algae."


Quality


Heliae prides itself on the quality of our products. Our Quality and Regulatory team ensures that every production batch meets our customer’s specifications and complies with all applicable regulations and leading industry standards. Some of our Quality team members share their thoughts below.


Corporate


Our corporate team provides Heliae with all of the capabilities required to realize its strategies. A few of our Associates that support our business are showcased here.


Leadership


Our leadership team promotes a relentless pursuit of excellence, integrity, responsibility, and innovation. Operating from these values in partnership with our Associates has allowed our leadership team to establish a track record of repeatedly meeting or exceeding key milestones in building a dynamic technology company. Heliae’s team has secured over one hundred million dollars of investment from strategic investors that are associated with some of the world’s most successful companies. Our team has employed these investments to develop a demonstration production facility that is producing multiple commercial products backed by significant ongoing research. Notable among many recent successes, our leadership team has overseen the launch of two commercial products, the large scale production of a cutting edge genetically modified microalgae product for a contract research partner, and the launch of an international joint venture.

Eric Lichtenheld

Chief Operating Officer


Eric brings nearly 35 years of experience in managing operations in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and consumer products industries. Eric began his work with algae in the 1980s, doing pioneering work with Dr. William Oswald in algal raceway production systems. After leading production facilities for Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Tate & Lyle domestically and overseas, Eric returned to the algae industry when he joined Heliae as VP of Operations in 2014. Soon after joining Heliae, Eric was appointed Chief Operating Officer. Eric completed a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and earned an MBA in finance and operations management from Loyola University Chicago.

Len S. Smith

Chief Business Officer


Len joined Heliae in 2014. Prior to joining Heliae he spent more than 15 years in leading roles for large and mid-sized biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, most recently serving as Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX). Len completed technical degrees in biology and environmental science, as well as information systems management and law. His biological research focused on the genetics of leguminous plants.

J. Craig Johnson

Chief Executive Officer


Craig brings nearly 30 years of experience in operational and financial management for both private and public companies, including Armor Designs (LSE:ADID), Global Entertainment (Amex:GEE) and ServiceMaster (NYSE:SVM). Craig joined Heliae as the company’s Chief Financial Officer in 2011. He was asked to assume the position of Interim Chief Executive Officer in July 2014. Within a few months he was permanently appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer. Craig holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fullerton and was chosen for and completed an exclusive executive program (MBA-equivalent degree) in business administration conducted by Wheaton University.

Lori Wilder

Director of Human Resources


Lori brings over 20 years of experience in human resources and organization development to Heliae, including leading roles with Westinghouse Corporation, Simon & Schuster Publishing Company, Universal Technical Institute, and International Cruise & Excursions. She joined Heliae based on her passion for helping emerging, high growth companies achieve their business objectives by focusing on transforming and maintaining a high performance culture. Lori holds a degree in Psychology from Millersville University and is a certified Senior Professional Human Resources Manager.

Dan Torre

Director of Finance


Dan joined Heliae in January 2012, bringing over 15 years of experience including a variety of senior financial positions with a broad background in a wide variety of industries, including positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Honeywell. Dan graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University and is a Certified Public Accountant.