4 minutes with… Brian Sefton, Founder, Chief Scientist, President, Oakbio

April 8, 2015 |

19e378eTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Oakbio has developed highly versitile microbial platforms and processes for waste carbon conversion. We have fluegas capture microbe, proven fluegas resistant, which producing PHAs and n-butanol. We also have an ecoli platform which can covert wastewater, agricultural waste and others to n-butanol. Both platforms use the same genetic system

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

My role is as both Chief Scientist and as an excutive of the company. In both roles I am focused on building value in the company. On the science side we are focused on several areas:

1. Improving n-butanol yeilds.

2. Engineering of new products.

3. Validating models on additional feedstocks.

4. Improving methods of cultures/fermentation and product recovery.

On the business side we are focused on:

1. Funding – we are currently engaged in discussions with several potential large investors.

2. Partnerships – we are making partnerships with both feedstock producers, such as fluegas emitters, municipal wastewater facilites, and agricultural producers.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

The development of production scale for products in order to create real markets is essential. For n-butanol the chemical feedstock market is straong today. For PHAs, the total production is not high enough for makers of plastic products to adopt these as a viable plastic feedstock.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

The reluctance of investors would be agood thing to change. Another would be the disconnect with government granting agencies which seem to push inviable technologies at the expense of viable ones. An example of this would be in biofuels the over investment in certain ethanol production. In carbon capture, in the past CCS was favored over CCU.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

I am a biochemist with a love for the environment and a compulsion to be an entreprenuer.

Where are you from? 

Originally from New Jersey, I have moved to Cupertino when I was 16.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

Biochemistry. UC Berkeley. I chose this school because I was inspired by attending a lecture given by Dr. Dan Koshland of Berkeley. I changed my major to biochemistry from Ecology.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

Dan Koshland, Randy Shekman – UC Berkeley.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

Dont give up

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?

Music: I play guitar and banjo. I wrench on cars and motorcycles.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

Ulysses – James Joyce.

The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way.

A Bible.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

I find the 5 minute guides to various companies very good.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?  

Northville New York.

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Category: Million Minds

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