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The Vestal Team

Vern Powers, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Powers is leading Vestal's private sector partnerships in the advancement of research and development efforts and guiding commercialization efforts. His management experience includes CEO of Hastings HVAC and 2 terms as the former Mayor of Hastings, Nebraska.  In addition, he has served on the Board for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Board of Directors for the Nebraska Workforce Development Investment Trust, and Advisory Board Member for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.  His expertise will advise research and development and importantly lead efforts of Vestal from start-up, through capital acquisition/retention, production, and market commercialization.

Paul N. Black, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer.  Dr. Black directs overall scientific operations addressing the remediation of goundwater for municipal use.  He is also Professor Emeritus and Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His laboratory has been instrumental in developing high-resolution technologies to trace complex lipid metabolism in algae leading to increased oil synthesis, developed laboratory scale photobioreactors, and developed strategies to use groundwater high in NO3-N to support algal growth. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Education Fellow of the American Association for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and has 104 peer-reviewed publications and 6 patents/applications

James W. Allen, PhD, Director of Scientific Operations.  Dr. Allen is advancing efforts to refine and scale the algal photobioreactor systems that includes field deployment and life cycle studies.  He is presently a Research Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with 15 years of expertise in mass spectrometry and NMR necessary to address metabolic flux in  algae, with a recent focus on the nitrogen-carbon balance in the context of growing high density cultures of algae. He has been instrumental in the algal photobioreactor design, refinement and operation.  Dr. Allen has 30 peer-reviewed publications and 2 patents/applications.

Concetta C. DiRusso, PhD, Chief Technical Officer. Dr. DiRusso is involved in strain selection for use in the algal photobioreactor systems.  She is also a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has identified and patented small molecule lipid activators in green algae that result in increased oil synthesis without impacting growth. She is President and CEO of Kennebec Analytical Services, which will provide the necessary environmental testing services for Vestal.  She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Jefferson Science Fellow, and has 101 peer-reviewed publications and 4 full patents.

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