Plantae Presents: Plant Science for Startups

Plantae Presents: Plant Science for Startups

Featuring Kathleen Hefferon, Maria Sorkin, Adrián López Velarde, Daniel Westcott, and Weslee Glenn

When: Friday, February 23, 2024, at
8:00 AM PST | 11:00 AM EST | 4:00 PM GMT | 9:30 PM IST

About this Webinar

Embark on a transformative journey through the expansive realm of plant science in our upcoming webinar, “Plant Science for Startups.” Beyond conventional agriculture, this session will unveil the myriad opportunities that plant science holds for innovative startups. From bioengineering and sustainable materials to medicinal breakthroughs, we’ll explore how startups can leverage plant science to forge new paths in diverse industries. Join us to unravel the potential of plant-based technologies, gain insights into market dynamics, and navigate the regulatory landscape. This webinar is your gateway to understanding the holistic spectrum of possibilities that plant science offers, empowering startups to thrive in a future where botanical innovation meets entrepreneurial vision.

Hosted by the 2024 Plantae Fellows.


Dr. Kathleen Hefferon

Dr. Kathleen Hefferon a professional microbiologist and CEO of Forte Protein, an innovative venture supported by Cornell University’s Center for Life Science Ventures business incubator. Forte Protein’s technology facilitates efficient and sustainable production of diverse animal proteins in plants. These proteins are utilized in a range of non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and gluten-free products, including meat replacements, energy drinks, supplements, gels, cheese, and milk alternatives. Driven by a commitment to addressing food insecurity, Forte Protein’s approach minimizes reliance on animals, contributing significantly to reducing the carbon footprint in conventional food production. X: @KHefferon


Dr. Maria Sorkin

Dr. Maria Sorkin is an Organism Engineer at Gingko Bioworks, a biotech company specializing in the use of genetic engineering to produce customized bacteria with applications in diverse industries. A Pittsburgh native, Maria earned her doctorate in Plant and Microbial Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis, focusing her investigations on circadian clock contribution to plant physiology. Currently at Gingko, she works on projects related to plant and fungal product engineering. X: @MariaSorkin



Adrián López Velarde

Adrián López Velarde, a visionary entrepreneur and sustainability advocate, was inspired by a year-long cultural exchange in Taiwan and holds a degree in Global Politics and Economy. Co-founding ADRIANO DI MARTI SA DE CV in 2019 with Marte Cazares, their mission was to address the environmental impact of traditional leather. Their breakthrough, Desserto, a globally recognized cactus-based material, positioned the company as a leader in sustainable innovation. Adrián’s latest endeavor involves launching a limited edition Desserto variant crafted from Agave, showcasing his unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of eco-friendly alternatives. X: @AdrianLopezVela


Dr. Daniel Westcott

Dr. Daniel Westcott serves as the Head of Protein and Texture at Climax Foods, a pioneering company dedicated to reducing the climate impact of animal agriculture. Holding a doctorate in plant and microbial biology from UC Berkeley, his research delved into the fundamental aspects of photosynthesis. Daniel’s professional journey encompasses roles as a farmer, cook, and educator, cultivating a diverse skill set crucial to understanding and addressing the challenges of sustainable food solutions. Climax Foods is rapidly scaling to address the urgent need, while preserving the culturally rich experience of delicious food.




Dr. Weslee Glenn

Dr. Weslee Glenn is Vice President of Innovation at Ayana Bio, a biotech company utilizing plant cell cultivation to develop botanical ingredients that add nutritional density to health and wellness products. This technology (first demonstrated in the 1950s) can overcome the sustainability, purity, safety, and ethical concerns of our current supply chains. Wes has spent his career studying plants—how they make the molecules we use as medicines, how they respond to stress, and how they can be protected from insects. He looks at society’s biggest challenges with resolve and optimism. X: @Wes_Glenn


Rajarshi Sanyal

Rajarshi Sanyal is a PhD Scholar at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in India. Recognized as a Plantae Fellow in 2023 and subsequently assuming the role of Plantae Editor, Rajarshi has demonstrated his commitment to advancing plant science. His current research explores the intricacies of plant development in response to environmental signals, with a specific focus on optimizing developmental features for enhanced photosynthesis in crop plants. Beyond the laboratory, he also shares a passion for traveling, sports, and photography. X: @rajarshi_sanyal


Andrew Kim Hempton

Andrew Kim Hempton is a PhD student, currently haunting the sub-basement grow chambers of the University of Washington where he investigates the molecular and physiological mechanisms of shade induced developmental responses in plants. When not grafting plants together under the baleful glow of far-red light he enjoys pulp science fiction, campy horror, and considering the relative merits of Vauban’s defensive systems.