Meet The Team

/Meet The Team
Meet The Team2019-03-13T15:19:50+00:00


Chief Executive Officer, Board Member

Wendy is the CEO and a co-founder of New West Genetics. She holds an MA from California State University in Education, which she uses to wrangle her partners into a cohesive, prioritized force. Prior to teaching for 10 years, Wendy worked in the nonprofit sector in HR and in contract procurement for an aerospace business in Seattle. Wendy helps create and articulate New West’s strategy and vision, as well as handles day-to-day operations. Wendy loves singing country music, riding bicycles, and gardening with her family.

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Chief Business Officer, Board Member

Daphne Preuss is an entrepreneur focused on bringing genetic and biotechnology innovations to agriculture.  She previously founded and built Chromatin Inc. into the leading innovator in sorghum, aggregating genetic technology and global sales channels, and recruiting the industry’s leading team of sorghum experts.  She frequently advises start up companies and their investors, and is passionate about transitioning innovation to the commercial sector. Prior to joining Chromatin, Preuss was a Howard Hughes Investigator at the University of Chicago. She previously chaired the NCBI – the NIH’s DNA database division, and has served on BIO’s Food & Agriculture Section.

Sarah Hirstwood
Executive Assistant to CEO

Sarah’s experience in business administration is extensive in both the private and public sectors, she has gained qualifications in IT and Professional Business Management from Australia and the UK. Her motivation lies in seeing the results of building robust business systems and processes in order to maximize efficiency in whatever capacity she can. Sarah prides herself on being at the heart of New West and fostering professional relationships both internally and externally to New West. Sarah spends her spare time with her family, working on craft projects and visiting local breweries with friends.

Frank Curtis
Director of Operations

Beginning in the plant industry as a barley breeder, Frank’s 38 years’ experience in the seed industry has expanded to field research, technical management, product development, seed production, sales and marketing, intellectual property management, executive management, and more. He currently lives in Fort Collins, CO and brings valuable expertise of seed production and intellectual property management.

Director of Genetics, Board Member

John McKay is a Professor of Plant Evolutionary Genomics at Colorado State University. In his faculty position, McKay leads a research group on the genetics of adaptation in crops and model systems, with a focus on drought and sustainability. In 2014, when US ended prohibition of hemp, McKay co-founded New West Genetics to apply modern genomics and breeding to Cannabis sativa. His research examines evolution and gene function at both the phenotypic and molecular levels. His genetic discoveries are in the commercial breeding pipeline for multiple crops. McKay’s publications have been cited over 6,000 times, and he serves on scientific review panel in the US and internationally. Dr. McKay has multiple research projects on investing the genetics of adaptation to climate through competitive grant awards totaling over $20MM grants from the National Science Foundation, USDA, ARPA-E, and the DOE.

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Director of Breeding, Board Member

Rich is the Director of Breeding and a co-founder of New West Genetics. His interest is in utilizing technology to develop and bring to market cultivars with traits that benefit both the producer and consumer. Rich was a part of Cargill’s hybrid canola breeding program for more than 18 years, most recently leading the North American breeding and genetics program. He also worked as an agronomist where he gained a practical working knowledge of field crop production. During his Ph.D. work at Colorado State University, Rich utilized genetics and genomics approaches to identify genes underlying drought adaptation in Brassica napus. Rich is a native Coloradoan, and regularly enjoys the beauty of his state through skiing and hiking.

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JAY CZARKOWSKIManaging Partner, Canna Advisors
Jay and his wife, Diane are the founders of Canna Advisors, a cannabis enterprise consulting firm which advises clients through the competitive state application process for cannabis business licenses. His guidance has helped Canna Advisors win licenses in every state where they’ve consulted. He is also a founding member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and a lifetime member of ArcView Investment Network.
Jonathan Burbaum
Business Development/Investor Relations

Jonathan is a practical strategist with a strong track record for creation and execution of imaginative strategies in ag and bio technology. He has worked fluently within start-ups, established corporations, and government entities, contributing in areas of tech-to-market commercialization, healthcare, techno-economic analysis and government funding. Jonathan combines and leverages his strategy expertise and in-depth direct experience to help make New West’s growth vision happen.

Rhonda Wallen
Rhonda WallenCOO, Andarix Pharmaceuticals
Rhonda has co-founded and/or served as senior management for 3 early stage biotech companies. In consulting roles with Cygnet Management, she’s served as interim management for senior level business development and marketing functions. Rhonda was previously a venture capital investor and has also held management roles in bio/pharmaceutical and medtech companies where she led corporate development, evaluation and negotiation of numerous licensing and strategic transactions.
Ken Cera
Ken CeraFounding partner, Law Offices of Schwartz & Cera
Ken specializes in venture capital and other financing transactions, and he represents a large venture capital fund, other investors, and many start ups and other companies. Ken started his career at a large law firm in Silicon Valley, and has continued to work in the venture capital world since then. Ken has a degree in business from U.C. Berkeley, and a J.D., cum laude, from University of Chicago Law School.