We are the world leader in constructive biology.

Primordial Genetics is a synthetic biology company founded in 2013. We are the world leader in constructive biology; a revolutionary new way of practicing biotechnology that creates novel genes from genomic building blocks to accelerate the evolution of highly efficient enzymes and microbes.

We apply our powerful technology to advance bio-production and to create efficient manufacturing systems for high-value molecules and materials. Our vision is to help the world transition away from raw materials and production systems based on fossil fuels and towards a diverse and integrated bio-economy.

We are focused on creating high-value enzyme-based production systems for manufacturing RNA and DNA, the twin carriers of genetic information that are key ingredients in numerous pharmaceutical, diagnostic and R&D products and critical enablers of the biotechnology revolution.

Our mission

Meaningful innovation

Our mission is to:

  • Develop efficient and streamlined systems for manufacturing RNA and DNA to allow ever-expanding possibilities of diverse products incorporating these genetic materials;
  • Develop powerful genetic technologies that expand the possibilities of molecular and synthetic biology in creating improved enzymes and bio-production hosts and allow us to create marketable products used in pharmaceuticals, nutrition, agriculture & industrial manufacturing; and
  • Develop a self-sustaining, profitable biotechnology business that provides an investment return to our shareholders and represents a stable and prosperous work environment for our employees.
  • Create good products in an ethical manner that connects innovation with economic and social needs and promotes public acceptance of new technologies.

Meet the team

Primordial Genetics is built by experienced biotechnology, life sciences and agricultural biotech entrepreneurs and executives with more than 150 years’ combined experience developing biological technologies and products. Our full-time team has deep technical and business expertise in our target fields and markets. We rely on our Board of Directors and broad network of advisors to complement our in-house skills and knowhow.


Sabrina Baffert

Sabrina is a highly trained research scientist with 8 years of industrial biotech experience, deep molecular biology expertise and demonstrated proficiency at the bench. As the first employee of Primordial Genetics, she has worked on various industrial biotechnology collaborations focusing on pharmaceutical, renewable fuels and agricultural applications and has isolated multiple genetic solutions in industrially relevant bacteria and yeast. Her Current work is focused on discovery and improvement of high-efficiency RNA polymerases for applications in RNA-based therapeutics and vaccines.

Sabrina has a strong background in microbial genetics from training at the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute in Flagstaff, AZ where she focused on mapping genetic diversity of infectious pathogens isolated from clinical samples around the world. With an interest in public health, she has visited Jamaica and Peru on global health and clinical medicine expeditions to better understand cultural approaches to health issues. Sabrina received a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Northern Arizona University and currently pursuing an MPH from UC Berkeley.


Matt Goering

Matt Goering is a biotechnology professional with 25 years of experience as a bench and field scientist as well as assuming managerial positions when necessary. After a short stint as a Park Ranger/Botanist at Pinnacles National Monument Matt began a wide ranging career in discovery research.

As a director at Sequoia Sciences, he led a team that isolated thousands of compounds from terrestrial plants and discovered extremely active biofilm inhibiting compounds. Prior to that, Matt held positions at Mycogen and Ligand Pharmaceuticals.

He has a passion for both botany and laboratory automation. Matt has grown fungi, algae, crop plants and Jatropha in greenhouses and growth chambers at Tissue Grown, Mycogen and Synthetic Genomics. At Dart Neurosciences he worked with cutting edge compound management robotics as part of the synthetic chemistry group; and as part of the Neurophysiology group with the Sophion Qpatch Patch clamping hardware. Most recently Matt was developing automated library prep methods for Active Motif.

Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Humboldt State University in Arcata California.


Dan Olson, Ph.D.

Daniel brings expertise in microbial genetics and genome engineering, biochemistry, and cell biology to Primordial Genetics. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University’s Department of Cell Biology where he studied the regulation of lipid metabolism by kinase signaling cascades in the budding yeast S. cerevisiae. He conducted post-doctoral research at the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education at the University of Hawaii where he was involved in the metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis of marine microbial community metabolism with a focus on the diversity and function of microbial photoactivated proteins. As a scientist at Primordial Genetics, Daniel has developed microbial strain engineering tools and implemented proprietary genetic engineering technology for the production of commercial targets in S. cerevisiae and currently leads efforts in the discovery and improvement of enzymes used in the enzymatic synthesis of nucleic acids.
Founder & President

Helge Zieler, Ph.D.

Helge founded Primordial Genetics in 2011 with the goal of building the premier company for genetic improvement of microbes.

Helge is a biotechnology professional and entrepreneur with 14 years of industry experience in technology development, R&D project leadership and IP development/management in early-stage biotechnology companies. He has a passion for early-stage genetic technologies, and has helped launch the operations of multiple biotech startups including Akkadix, Chromatin, Synthetic Genomics, Agradis, Primordial Genetics and Industry3200.

Helge's background combines strong technical skills in molecular biology, genomics, plant and algal biotechnology and synthetic biology with entrepreneurism and R&D project leadership.

He did his doctorate work in yeast molecular genetics in nobel laureate Paul Berg’s laboratory at Stanford University’s famed Biochemistry Department and received his PhD in 1994.

Following an interest in malaria research he then did his post-doctoral work in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Starting in 2000, Helge worked on a variety of projects in crop plant biotechnology and genomics. He led a group at Chromatin Inc that successfully developed artificial chromosomes as gene delivery vehicles in multiple crop species. As Senior Director for Plant Genomics at Synthetic Genomics Inc, he spearheaded efforts to sequence the oil palm and jatropha genomes and set up a molecular breeding project for castor improvement, while also participating in metagenomic studies of microbial populations in subsurface hydrocarbons.


Patrik Engström, Ph.D.

Patrik Engström is a versatile scientist who thrives by solving critical scientific problems. After receiving a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Umeå University, Sweden, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley, for post-doctoral training. During his Ph.D. and postdoc, Patrik revealed mechanisms that bacterial pathogens use to cause disease. For example, he discovered that lysine methylation prevents a pathogen from being degraded by innate immunity. Patrik brings to the Primordial Genetics team expertise in molecular biology, experimental evolution, and biochemistry.

Alan Greener, Ph.D.

Alan Greener received his Bachelors degrees in Biology and Mathematics from Brooklyn College and his Ph.D. in Genetics from the Pennsylvania State University Medical School in Hershey, PA. After a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, San Diego studying plasmid DNA replication, he entered the commercial biotechnology field. In the past 25 years, Alan has held high-level R&D positions at Stratagene and at Gene Therapy Systems. In both companies, he developed numerous E. coli strains with higher transformation efficiency, improved yield of recombinant protein and improved recombinant protein solubility. He also developed hosts for random and site-directed mutagenesis, a topoisomerase-mediated cloning host, and strains to reduce rearrangements within cloned DNA segments. All of these strains were developed and released as commercial products. In addition, he holds patents for inventing methods for error-free PCR cloning and infecting mammalian cells with a bacterial virus. Alan will be drawing on this expertise to further improve bacterial host strains using the Function Generator platform technology.

Shawn I. Walsh, Ph.D.

Shawn Walsh, Ph.D. is a Scientist at Primordial Genetics with over eight years of laboratory experience. He brings to the team a diverse skill set across microbiology, molecular biology, and synthetic biology. He conducted research on bacterial second messengers at Emory University, where he earned a B.S. with high honors in Chemistry. Afterwards, Shawn traveled to the West Coast to earn his Ph.D. in microbiology from the Scripps Research Institute, where he explored the therapeutic potential and mechanisms of resistance to the arylomycin family of natural product antibiotics. A fascination with evolution and a desire to improve lives drive him make an impact through biotechnology.

Barbara Frey

Barbara started her career in biotech with an internship at BioAtla, where she helped test novel antibody therapeutics for their use as anti-cancer drugs. After a brief stint at a small nutritional supplement company, Barbara returned to BioAtla as Lab Assistant, working on developing the company’s own proprietary cell line for antibody expression. Before coming to Primordial Genetics, she was a 1st Shift Manufacturing Associate at Mesa Biotech, preparing and building SARS-CoV-2 test kits. Barbara graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with Bachelor’s degree in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller is committed to the pursuit of making a positive impact on the world through science and firmly believes in the old adage, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one." He received his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego in 1999, and has spent the next 20+ years following that adage to gain expertise in many scientific areas.

Using his vast skillset in expression, protein purification, assay development, and high throughput screening, Mark has been directly involved in the evolution of many industrial enzymes (several of which have been brought to market). He was instrumental in the screening and characterization a bio-bleaching enzyme, Luminase®, which allows mills to reduce the amount of chlorine dioxide used in making paper products. He guided the design and execution of high throughput screening for various phospholipase enzymes (PLA, PLC) that increase oil yield from soybean extracts. His extensive work in collaboration with Novus International® (a world leader of animal nutrition) lead to the creation and introduction of the most effective phytase enzyme brought to market to date, CIBENZA® PHYTAVERSE. Finally, the past few years Mark has been driving the evolution of next generation industrial enzymes while working at BASF Enzymes LLC.

Mark brings his drive and passion for science to Primordial Genetics to help the company become a world leader in the field of RNA therapeutics.


Karen Xu, Ph.D.

Karen Xu, PhD is a scientific leader in the biotechnology industry with an expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, protein purification and biochemistry, and synthetic biology. She received her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Montana State University with a research focus on microbial biofilms. She did her postdoctoral work in Bacillusbiotechnology and molecular genetics at University of California San Diego. After entering the biotechnology industry, Karen held various positions at Diversa Corporation, Genlantis and Synthetic Genomics. At Diversa (now part of BASF) as a Staff Scientist, she was a recipient of an NIH Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for the discovery of novel cancer drugs. At a subsequent position with Synthetic Genomics, Karen was the Head of the Microbial Discovery Group. Under her leadership, numerous microbial strains, gene pathways and novel protein products were discovered; candidate proteins for agricultural, nutritional and biopolymer production applications were expressed and purified, with grater than 20 novel gene pathways characterized and filed in patent applications.

Board of Directors

Chief Financial Officer
Cidara Therapeutics

Jamie Levine

James “Jamie” Levine is chief financial officer of Cardiff Oncology, a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing new treatments for cancer. Prior to joining Cardiff, Levine held senior executive and Board roles at three biotechnology companies, Cidara Therapeutics, Sapphire Energy and Verenium Corporation. Previously, Levine was a managing director in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs & Co. in both New York and London, where he spent 11 years focused on serving clients in the healthcare and energy industries. Levine holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Brandeis University.
Founder & President
Two Seven Ventures

J. Todd Mitchell

Todd Mitchell has spent his career in energy and clean-tech endeavors, first as a principal in start-up companies related to natural gas exploration and geophysics; and more recently as founder and president of Two Seven Ventures, a clean-tech investment fund. TSV’s portfolio includes companies involved in solar PV finance & development; building energy management; building power, lighting & controls; hot water monitoring & controls; energy storage; and synthetic biology. He was a founding investor and is a director of Alta Resources, a shale gas exploration company, and was a director of Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation (NYSE: MND, 1993-2002), and Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE: DVN, 2002-2012) where he served on audit and reserves committees.

Todd has a BA in Geology from The Colorado College (1981), MA in Geology from The University of Texas at Austin (1987), and MSc in Sustainable Development (with Distinction) from Edinburgh University (2007). His academic background includes research on aspects of the global carbon cycle and cycling of CO2 between ecosystems and the atmosphere. He has completed executive management continuing education at Rice University and Northwestern University Kellogg School. Todd was a member of the Roundtable for Science & Technology for Sustainable Development (2006-2012), organized by the US National Academies of Science.

He was president of Houston Advanced Research Center (2001-20006) and is currently HARC’s board chairman. HARC is a leader in sustainability science and policy development related to air quality, energy, water resources, and resiliency in the greater Houston Gulf Coast region. Todd served as a commissioner on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission from 2014 to 2016, and he is a member of the advisory board for Energy Futures Initiative. He is married with two teenaged children and lives in Aspen, Colorado, where he enjoys cycling, skiing, mountaineering and squash, and is active in local non-profit organizations.

Senior Development Engineer
UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Dominick Mendola, Ph.D.

Dominick Mendola, PhD is Senior Development Engineer at the University of California San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and Business advisor to Dr. Gregory Mitchell, PhD, and Phitec, LLC, providers of PG’s initial seed capital.

Dr. Mendola was Founder, CEO and Principal Investigator for 14 years at CalBioMarine Technologies, Inc, a pioneering bio-production company for new marine natural products, and in preceding years, a principal in 3 other commercial aquaculture food production companies.

Dr. Mendola received his PhD at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, in Marine Bioprocess Engineering in 2008, and a B.S. in Zoology/Marine Biology from San Diego State University in 1967.



Chairman, President, and CEO
BioAtla LLC

Dr. Short is a cofounder of BioAtla® and co-inventor of the BioAtla’s patented Conditionally Active Biologics (CAB) platform. He also cofounded Diversa Corp. (now BASF), a pioneering developer of enzymes, antibodies and biologically active compounds, and served in multiple roles including CEO, President and CTO from 1994 to 2005. He led Diversa’s public offering, raising over $200 million, which was the largest biotechnology IPO at that time. Prior to Diversa, Dr. Short served as President of Stratacyte, an antibody engineering company and subsidiary of Stratagene (now Agilent), who together with Scripps Clinic, were the first to clone and screen human antibody libraries in E. coli. During this time he also served as VP of R&D and Operations for Stratagene Cloning Systems. Dr. Short received his B.A in Chemistry with Honors from Taylor University. At Case Western Reserve University he received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry with additional studies in Macromolecular Science. He is the author of more than 100 publications and is the inventor of over 500 pending patents including more than 170 granted patents.

In 2006, Dr. Short was shortlisted by the editors of Nature Biotechnology as a personality making the most significant contribution to biotech in the past decade. He is the recipient of numerous other awards, including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, American Chemical Society’s Henry F. Whalen, Jr. Award for Business Development, Adaptive Business Leaders’ Innovations in HealthCare Gold Award, two of Connect’s first place Most Innovative Product Awards, and in 2010 received an international Best-of-the-Best award from the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). Dr. Short’s board experience includes 15 years as a director of Invitrogen (now Thermo Fisher), Senomyx, Taxon Biosciences (now Dupont), and Ciris Energy. He is a member of YPO/WPO and a founder of Capia IP and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. Dr. Short serves as an advisor to educational, commercial, scientific and charitable organizations.


Pharmaceutical Industry Advisor

Claus Zieler, M.Sc., MBA is President International Markets at Astellas Pharma Singapore Pte Ltd, where he is responsible for a $1bn revenue pharmaceutical business.

He has more than 20 years of experience in different executive roles in commercial, development and strategy functions in the pharmaceutical industry, including responsibilities for different markets in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and for different therapeutic areas, such as oncology, cardiology, neurology, gynaecology and dermatology.

Claus Zieler earned an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, as well as an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a B.A. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University.


Strategic Advisor

Jeff Lievense is a Senior Engineering Fellow at Genomatica, a developer of biobased technologies for the chemical industry. He was trained as a chemical engineer, graduating with highest honors from The University of Michigan, and then earned his PhD from Purdue University.

With 35 years of experience in industrial biotechnology, Dr. Lievense has broad and deep knowledge in metabolic engineering and bioprocessing. He has contributed to the commercial development of many fermentation chemical products, spanning enzymes, amino acids, aromatics, polyols, organic acids, carotenoids, biogums, sweeteners, and hydrocarbons – these having diverse applications in fuels, human and animal nutrition, clinical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, synthetic dyes, and polymers.

In 2014, Dr. Lievense was recognized as an Outstanding Chemical Engineer by Purdue. In 2016, Biofuels Digest named him one of the Top 100 People in the Advanced Bioeconomy. He has been on the instructional team of UC San Diego Extension’s highly rated Microbial Fermentation Workshop since 2013.


Keck Graduate Institute

Animesh Ray, PhD, is Professor, Chair of the Faculty, and Director of PhD Program at the School of Applied Life Sciences in Keck Graduate Institute, claremont, ca.

He was previously a professor (1991-2001) and a visiting professor (2001-2004) at the University of Rochester, adjunct professor at UCSD (2001-2004), and visiting professor at the Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, and University of Hyderabad, India.

He obtained his PhD in microbial genetics from Monash University, Melbourne, in 1985, and subsequently was a researcher at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. Professor Ray has published research papers in fields ranging from molecular and developmental biology to computational and systems biology. His publications can be accessed here:

Animesh’s Publications


Strategic Business Advisor

Dr. Leslie Hickle is Vice President Business Development for BioAtla, a San Diego biopharmaceutical company developing novel drugs and protein engineering platforms based on bioactive proteins such as antibodies and enzymes. She has extensive research and management leadership experience in animal health, agribusiness, and industrial biotechnology and transactional experience across multiple industries leading to several legacy products with multi-million dollar sales. Prior to joining BioAtla, she managed the San Diego headquarters and led corporate development for Synthetic Genomics, a company founded by Dr. Craig Venter to progress the development of biobased fuels and synthetic biology. Previous to SGI, while at Diversa, AgriLynx, Mycogen and Stauffer Chemical (now Syngenta) she played critical rolls in identifying and fostering strategic alliances with key partners in animal health, plant agriculture and industrial businesses. She has led and mentored teams that have developed novel chemical and biopesticides, plant traits, vaccines, therapeutics, and technology platforms; she is co- inventor on issued and pending patents, is editor of a book on analytical chemistry, and co-author of publications in animal health and agriculture. She has founded successful biotech companies and served as a business and technical consultant to Bayer, California EPA, Schering Plough, Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Cal Poultry Federation and several biotech startups. Dr. Hickle received both her BS (1974, Biology/Chemistry) and PhD (1981, Entomology/Toxicology) from the University of California Riverside. Leslie is a Certified Board of Director (UCLA Anderson School of Business) and continues to advise and work with new biotech startups; she also serves on UC Riverside Board of Advisors for the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.


We have a successful record in partnerships with larger companies that improve industrial production organisms and systems in a variety of industries: pharmaceuticals, feed & food ingredients, renewable chemicals & fuels, flavors & fragrances, agricultural biotechnology and the microbiome. Please contact us if you want to hear how our hard-working scientists can help you create and re-shape enzymes and microbes used in commercial processes and consumer products.

Grant Support

Primordial Genetics has also received grant support from multiple government agencies.