Our People

BioConnect Iowa

Steve Brody

President & CEO

Steve joined BioConnect Iowa in December 2021. He has more than 30 years of experience in public and private sectors and comes to BCI from Genus plc, a world-leading animal genetics company. Prior to Genus, he was at DuPont Pioneer in various roles over a 20-year career, leading global biotechnology and regulatory efforts, industry relations, sales and marketing planning and federal government relations. He holds a master’s degree in Agribusiness from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in Planning and Public Affairs from the University of Iowa.

Anne McMahon

SBIR/STTR Statewide Program Coordinator

Anne joined BioConnect Iowa in 2017. She works with businesses, research and educational institutions, federal program managers, and statewide service providers to help bioscience start-up companies grow and succeed. She holds a Bachelor of Art degree in Communication Studies, and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship Management and Museum Studies from the University of Iowa.

Steve Smith

Commercial Officer

Steve joined BioConnect Iowa in 2019. He has 20+ years of experience in intellectual property, licensing, agribusiness, and startups. He has worked for Weil, Gotshal & Manges, McKee Voorhees & Sease, DuPont Pioneer (now Corteva Agriscience,) and The Context Network. Steve serves as CEO and co-founder of Inflexion Point Technologies, an Iowa-based prescription, on-planter seed treatment company. He earned a JD from Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington, and a Bachelor of Art degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Northern Iowa.

Safiya Lee-Evans

Program Operations Manager

Currently in her sixth year with the organization, Safiya Lee-Evans holds the pivotal role of Program Operations Manager, overseeing the intricacies between innovation, investment, and operational excellence. As the architect behind the scenes, she manages the seamless operations of both BioConnect Iowa and its subsidiary, Iowa Venture Capital Co-Investment Fund (InnoVenture Iowa), a $30M co-investment fund for early-stage startups.

The implementation of new programs, alongside the management of InnoVenture Iowa’s portfolio companies, are the heart of Safiya’s role. She also directs the Iowa Go-To-Market Accelerator grant program, in partnership with Iowa State University, ensuring its continued success as a beacon for startups seeking accelerated growth.

Safiya’s 20-year career is a testament to her versatility, having accumulated a wealth of experience in marketing, business development, and operations across both public and private sectors. Her dynamic skill set positions her as a linchpin in the success stories of BioConnect Iowa and the startups fortunate to be a part of the InnoVenture Iowa portfolio.

Heather Thomas

Administrative Assistant

Heather joined the BioConnect team in September 2023. She has over a decade of experience as an office manager, specializing in small team coordination and success. As a seasoned entrepreneur herself, Heather particularly enjoys being part of a team focused on bringing dreams and hard work to life, in support of Iowa startup founders.

Sam Martin

Administrative Assistant (G2M program)

Sam joined BioConnect Iowa in 2020 in a part-time role providing administrative support for the Iowa G2M project. He has a background in communications and marketing and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa.

InnoVenture Iowa Fund

Kaylee Williams

Investment Director

Kaylee Williams joined BioConnect Iowa in 2022 as the Investment Director for InnoVenture Iowa, a $30 million co-investment fund designed to support early-stage startup companies in biosciences, advanced manufacturing, and information technology. She is the former President of VolunteerLocal, a volunteer management software company, and the former Head of Customer Development at Roboflow. She is a trusted advisor with deep expertise in SaaS operations, developing early-stage traction and building high-performing teams.

Directors

Paul Schickler

Chair

Retired President - DuPont Pioneer

Paul was President of DuPont Pioneer, the advanced seed genetics business of DuPont, from 2007 to 2017. In this role he continued to expand Pioneer’s global business by remaining focused on innovation that improves local productivity and profitability of farmers in more than 90 countries. Schickler joined Pioneer in 1974 and served in a variety of finance, commercial and administrative leadership roles, including Vice President of International Operations from 1999 to 2007.

He has served on the boards of multiple organizations, such as the Cultivation Corridor, The Greater Des Moines Partnership, Drake University, and The World Food Prize Foundation. A strong contributor to the community, Mr. Schickler was Chair of the 2018 United Way of Central Iowa Campaign, works with the World Food Prize to advance the Global Youth Institute, and supports Meals from the Heartland and Self-Help International among others. His company, III Ag, LLC, provides consulting services to international companies and start-up enterprises in agriculture.

Paul is a graduate of Drake University, where he received Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Business Administration.

Billi Hunt *

Secretary/Treasurer

Executive Director - America's Cultivation Corridor

Billi Hunt was named the Executive Director of America’s Cultivation Corridor in February 2018. She brings over 20 years of experience in agriculture and the Iowa business community to the Corridor’s efforts to enhance agricultural sustainability and accelerate business development by attracting new companies, talent and capital to central Iowa. She works with Corridor investors, partners and other organizations to build the Corridor brand and broaden opportunities within the region.

Prior to joining America’s Cultivation Corridor, Hunt served as Government Affairs Manager for DuPont, leading state-level advocacy, public-policy initiatives and government-related business collaborations for the U.S. Central region, and throughout the United States. She also worked for Optimum Quality Grains, LLC, and Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.

An Iowa native, Hunt received her Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and her Master of Public Administration from Drake University. She and her husband Mike Elam and children live in Urbandale, Iowa.

Rebecca (Becky) Fusselman*

Site Director - Merck Animal Health

Becky joined BioConnect Iowa in 2022. She has more than 14 years of pharmaceutical manufacturing experience and is the Site Director of the Merck plant in Ames, Iowa. Becky recently moved to Iowa after having worked at the MSD site in Milton Keynes, England supporting the transformation and integration of the bacterial fermentation team there to increase agility and cross-functionality.

Becky holds a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership degree from College of Saint Mary and a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

 

 

 

Dr. John Greaves

Worldwide Vice President for Specialty Crops - Kemin Industries

Dr. John A. Greaves is the worldwide Vice President for Specialty Crops at Des Moines-based Kemin Industries, Inc. In his current role, Greaves coordinates a global team of plant breeders, horticulturalists, analytical chemists, organic chemists, research agronomists, and field agronomists who help develop innovative molecular solutions for the company.

John is a native of Lancaster, England. He graduated with a B.Sc (Honors) degree in 1984 (Agricultural Botany), and a Ph.D. degree in 1987 (Plant Physiology), both from the University of Wales in the United Kingdom.

Among his many civic and industry roles, John serves on the board of advisors of the ISU Plant Sciences Institute and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and is an independent director on the board of Chromatin, Inc. He is an inventor on over 12 U.S. and international issued patents and 6 pending patents. John lives with his wife and family in Ankeny.

R. Scott Johnson

IP Attorney - Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.

Scott is a trial attorney, certified licensing professional and registered patent attorney with expertise in patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret litigation, and licensing. Scott represents clients in state and federal court proceedings on a variety of intellectual property matters, including patent infringement, trademark infringement, trade secret misappropriation, copyright infringement, unfair competition, tortious interference and licensing disputes. He also prosecutes mechanical, software and business method patents, as well as trademark and copyright applications.

Scott frequently performs related opinion work involving in-depth analysis of patent validity and infringement questions and files patents in the mechanical and electrical arts. His experience spans numerous industries, including automotive, business services, consumer products, food and agriculture, health care, industrial manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, retail, construction, manufacturing, genetics and international importation in state, federal, and international jurisdictions and in patent and trademark prosecutions, appeals and reexaminations before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Scott received his Juris Doctorate degree from Drake University Law School.

Matthew (Matt) Warrens

Managing Director of Innovation - UnityPoint Health

Matt Warrens has over twenty years of experience in the health care industry. Currently, he is the Managing Director of Innovation for UnityPoint Health (UPH). Matt is an experienced health care innovation leader driven to transform healthcare into a science of prevention culture to improve the quality of life. He has strong health care operations experience with a focus on identifying, developing and implementing new products and services for health care systems. Matt also has a demonstrated ability to identify clinical and operational technologies that will accelerate the transition to value-based care.

As Managing Director of Innovation, Matt’s responsibilities include the management of UPH Ventures $100MM venture fund, strategic partnerships with innovation solution companies and the commercialization and licensing of UnityPoint Health innovations.

Prior to joining UPH, Matt served OSF HealthCare System for nearly twenty years in various roles including Vice President of Innovation Partnerships and Executive Director of Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center.

Tim Whipple

Attorney - Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.

Tim is an attorney with Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. and focuses his practice in the Government Law Practice Area, working with municipal utilities, including electric, water, sewer, gas, and telecommunications. He works closely with clients as counsel on municipal utility matters, general municipal law matters, administrative law matters, board governance, and regulatory matters at the state and federal levels. Tim’s breadth of experience includes utilities law, municipal law, public finance, economic development, taxation, legislation, and administrative law.

Prior to Ahlers, Tim served as General Counsel for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU), where he focused on advancing the interests of over 700 municipal-owned utilities of all sizes across Iowa by representing them in Washington D.C. and at the Iowa state Capitol. He was formerly Vice President and General Counsel at MidAmerican Energy, an investor-owned utility company, and was responsible for overseeing legal services and litigation, state and federal regulatory compliance, corporate transactional work, government affairs, rate analysis and design, and environmental compliance in three states. Tim began his legal career as Legal Counsel at the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, and then joined the Iowa Economic Development Authority as General Counsel.

Tim is a native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and a graduate of Drake University Law School and St. Olaf College.

Ex-Officio

Debi Durham

Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority

Debi Durham was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in January 2011. As one of her first orders of business, Debi worked with the Governor and legislators to restructure the department to create a public-private partnership to update and improve Iowa’s delivery of economic development services. That led to the creation of the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress – the umbrella organization for the new structure. Debi now serves as the Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the public arm that replaces IDED and oversees the traditional economic development programs.

Prior to leading Iowa’s economic development initiatives, Debi served as President of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce since July 1995. She also served as President of The Siouxland Initiative (TSI), the economic development corporation serving the tri-state metropolitan area, and the Siouxland Chamber Foundation. In both 2007 and 2008, TSI was recognized as one of the “Top-Ten” economic development groups in the nation.

In June 2009, the Downtown Rotary Club in Sioux City recognized Debi as their Key Way award winner. The annual recipient is recognized as a local leader who has “contributed greatly to the health and prosperity of the area through business and community involvement.” Debi was also recognized by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry as one of “Five Iowa Women You Should Know” in 2007. In 2003, she was named to the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame and was the Republican Lt. Gubernatorial candidate in 2002.

Debi holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Marketing and Management degree from Missouri Southern State University. She and her husband Joel have two children.

Jordan Kaufmann

Senior Director of UI Ventures - University of Iowa

Dr. Jordan Kaufmann is a Biomedical Engineer turned entrepreneur and now supports others on similar paths. She currently leads two University spinout and innovation programs, UI Ventures and Iowa MADE, designed to advance promising university technologies from concept to commercialization.

In UI Ventures Jordan advises faculty entrepreneurs across the University of Iowa as they develop their ideas into spinout companies. She has assisted over 50 companies with business strategy, securing funding, building teams, and navigating both university and regulatory environments. Jordan also conceived and leads a unique e-commerce platform for medical technologies, Iowa MADE, to spur faculty innovation and student experiential learning opportunities where she leads the development, manufacturing, marketing, and sales efforts of multiple medical device products.

Prior to joining University of Iowa, Jordan was a co-founder, President, and CTO of startup, Cardiovate, developing tissue engineered vascular grafts to reconstruct diseased blood vessels. She was also a Biomedical Engineer for a medical decision support technology startup and a market analyst for a health-related marketing and consulting company. Jordan received a BS in Biomedical Engineering from NC State University and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from The University of Texas at San Antonio.

David Spalding, BioConnect Iowa Board of Directors

David Spalding

Raisbeck Endowed Dean of the Ivy College of Business, Iowa State University

David also serves as interim vice president for economic development and industry relations for Iowa State University. Before joining Iowa State in 2013, he served for eight years at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, most recently as senior vice president and senior advisor to Dartmouth’s president.  Before entering higher education, Spalding had a 29-year career in finance in New York City. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth and his MBA from New York University.

Robin Therme

President - CIVCO Medical Solutions

Robin is the president of CIVCO Medical Solutions, a leading global supplier of specialty medical devices with a mission to make image-guided procedures safer.

She joined CIVCO in 1991, when it was a founder-led privately held start-up, launched by a University of Iowa sonographer. Her first position was leading the company’s marketing department and overseeing branding, promotions, PR, merchandising, and advertising. CIVCO enjoyed rapid growth, and she held leadership roles in OEM business development, international market expansion, and new product development. She was instrumental in several CIVCO strategic acquisitions, leading due diligence and integration efforts. She served as GM of CIVCO’s MMI business unit and was the driver and executive sponsor overseeing the launch of CIVCO’s first international manufacturing operation in Juarez, Mexico.

Robin was named CIVCO president in April 2017, embarking on an initiative to better define the company mission, vision, culture, and community engagement. Since then, CIVCO has been named the “Coolest Place to Work” by the Corridor Business Journal, and employee engagement scores, measured by Gallup, have reached world-class levels.

Under her leadership, CIVCO has been active in supporting local organizations including the Johnson County and Washington County United Way, Coralville Food Pantry, March of Dimes, and Shelter House.

She is also personally engaged in community activities, serving on the Iowa City Area Development (ICAD) board chair, executive leadership as well as the ICAD Board of Directors, The Iowa City Area Business Partnership executive leadership and board, She has also been involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Executive Committee and Circle of Red Committee. In addition, Therme was recently an adjunct professor, co-teaching a leadership and personal development class for the Tippie College of Business’s online MBA program.

In 2022, Robin took over as chair of the ICAD Board and will do the same for the Iowa City Area Business Partnership Board in 2023. She is also a member of the State of Iowa’s IEDA Iowa Innovation Council.

Therme holds an MBA from the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and a BA from Iowa Wesleyan University where she was also on the women’s basketball team. She has a daughter, Shelby Kovach, a recent MBA graduate of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. She and her husband Dave reside in Coralville.

* Governor-appointed, Senate-approved Director role.