Meet The Team

/Meet The Team
Meet The Team2018-12-19T18:47:16+00:00


Chief Executive Officer

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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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.

Interim Chief Business Officer

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.

Frank Curtis
Chief Operating Officer

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.


New West Genetics’ experienced scientists are well-respected professionals in the field of plant genetics and adaptation. We have been published in leading journals, have consulted internationally to design marker assisted breeding projects, and are requested keynote speakers at plant genetics conferences.

Director of Genetics

John is the Director of Genetics and co-founder of New West Genetics. John’s research has focused on marker-selected breeding using model species and crops. John’s interest in plant genetics took shape at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he received his PhD in Biology. Following that, John investigated drought adaptation as a Post doctoral researcher at UC Davis. Simultaneous with the private endeavor of New West Genetics, John is a professor of Plant Genetics at a leading agricultural university, where he has been since 2006. In his spare time John loves to geek out on science and ride bikes with his family.

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Director of Breeding

Rich is the Director of Breeding and a co-founder of New West Genetics. Rich’s interest is in genes underlying plant adaptation. He has been a part of a commercial breeding program for over 10 years. Rich worked as an agronomist for several years, resulting in a practical working knowledge of field crop production. While at CSU, 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. Rich received his Ph.D. in Biology from Colorado State University.

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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.
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.