4 Minutes With…David Dodds, president, Dodds & Associates, tech diligence guru

September 11, 2014 |

doddsIf you’ve been to ABLC, you’ve likely seen a hugely-popular session where we turn the tables — instead of having CEOs present their companies and technologies, we have technical diligence experts look at companies and technologies with a critical eye — pointing out the question marks and “still to be proven” aspects as well as “now, that’s a real breakthrough if they prove it, wow” aspects. One of the experts who sits in the hot seat — that’s David Dodds.

What you don’t probably know about him is that he’s one of our most-trusted Digesterati. When there’s a new technology, or a material development in a well-known one, he’s one of those in the background guiding The Digest to better-informed conclusions.

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

I started Dodds & Associates in 2002 to provide technical strategy, diligence, and project management across multiple disciplines to industrial biotech. My focus and efforts are most generally at the interface between chemical and biological processes where there remains a large gap at all stages of development.

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

My overall role is to provide small/start-up/virtual companies in the bio-based chemicals area with the technical, interdisciplinary, executive level management to put a technical plan in place, from IP strategy to specific experiments at the bench. I can cover (and have) organic synthesis, chiral chemistry, biocatalysis, molecular biology, fermentation of natural products and recombinant enzymes, and the required downstream processing.

On the other side, my role is to provide technical due diligence to entities considering investment in such companies; I enjoy this greatly. Related to this, I have provided patent liaison as well as expert witness service in patent litigation.

Beyond this, my goal (or perhaps ambition is a better word) is to bring technical perspective and knowledge to both senior levels of corporate management and policy-making. This means moving into advocacy, a new endeavor for me.

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

We must have reasonably fixed and long-term national and international policies in place. At the moment, the near total lack of policies in any area regarding the bio-based economy is extraordinarily damaging.

Expressed as specific milestones, our industry needs clear policies on climate change, carbon cost/tax/caps, and energy (in all forms).

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

A massive increase in the level of appreciation understanding and factual knowledge of science and technology by the general population.

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?

It is the current manifestation of human efforts to live in balance and sustainably within the limits (of all types) imposed by the terrestrial environment.

And it is really cool science.

You’ll be speaking at the next ABLCNext conference in San Francisco this November. What’s special about that week for you?

Networking in all forums as much as possible; technical, advocacy/policy, and business.

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

I started in undergrad biochemistry, but by third year realized that biochemists did not know any chemistry, so switched to a chemistry program. At that time in University of Toronto, there was a single professor with a joint chemistry/biochemistry appointment — using biological methods to perform organic synthesis. I stayed on for a PhD.

Who do you consider your mentors?

My PhD and post-doc supervisors, Bryan Jones and Marv Caruthers, are obviously major names on my list. But I admire many many people, both historical figures as well as my friends, and hope I have learned from all of them.

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

Stick at it. As Churchill is reported to have said, “When you are going through Hell, keep going.”

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

I am a home-brewer, and have just started my winter brewing campaign.

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

Since I am going to have a lot of time, I would want all the great books that I have never read.

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

As it is the centenary, I am re-reading Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”, which I enjoyed years ago. I want to read Margaret MacMillan’s two books on the same subject, but am under no illusion that I will have this completed before the leaves fall.

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

The lakes and woods of the northern wilderness.

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