Elizabeth Hood, Ph.D., has more than thirty years experience in biology. She is the Lipscomb Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at Arkansas State University. Previously, she held the role of Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer at A-State. She runs an active research lab in plant-based protein production technology and cell wall structure and function. Dr. Hood was a Program Director in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation during the 2003-2004 academic year. She was a leader in forming one of the world’s foremost transgenic plant research groups at ProdiGene, a plant biotechnology company. Previous to ProdiGene, Dr. Hood was director of the cell biology group for plant production of therapeutic proteins at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a Fortune 500 Company.

Kendall Hood has thirty-five years of experience in biology, chemistry and plant breeding.  He has extensive experience conducting laboratory experiments within universities and companies, including Sigma Chemical Company where he worked for a number of years.  Mr. Hood has a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MS in Biology, both awarded by Oklahoma State University.  He has taught chemistry at the junior high, high school and university levels. He has also published several articles on plant biology.

Mark Hill’s career has been in sales and marketing management, which includes board level positions. After building a world-class sales organization for a fortune 500 company in Europe he transferred to the US in 1997. As Chief Marketing Officer his team facilitated a press conference for a US product launch which was featured as breaking news by Dan Rather on CBS Evening News. As President for a startup business, Mark laid the foundation for the business to grow into positive cash flow, which today trades on five continents. Having been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in 2009 he founded a number of businesses.

Ping Fong brings a wealth of experience as a multi-disciplined business development manager. His work experience spans large publicly traded companies including McDonnell Douglas/Boeing, Air Products, and Baxter Laboratories. Additionally, he has served in executive management positions for several emerging entrepreneurial companies. As a consultant, he has provided interim management and Executive Search Services to clients. His focus is on Medical Devices, Life Sciences, Business and Operations Management. He has recently been credited with organizing collaboration and networking sessions for the Arkansas Technology Summit, The Venture Center, and the MidSouth MCBIOS Conference.


Sharon C. Ballard is President and CEO of EnableVentures, Inc., and former President and Chief Executive and co-founder of Reticular Systems, Inc. She held management posts in Titan Corporation, Motorola Inc., and LINKABIT Corporation. As the first UCSD CONNECT Management Fellow, she coached over 60 early-stage high technology entrepreneurs. She is the developer of Supercoach® Entrepreneurial Training. She has coached entrepreneurs in Europe and across the US and is one of two founding Management Fellows for Arizona State University’s programs focusing on educating, coaching and networking early-stage entrepreneurs. She has coached thousands of early-stage entrepreneurs and positioned them to successfully acquire required resources (funding, people, etc.). She has worked with numerous company founders to develop winning SBIR and bootstrap financing strategies and help launch their companies.

John Howard, Ph.D. has over 35 years experience in directing biotechnology groups in research, regulatory, production, intellectual property, and business development for two Fortune 500 companies and two start-up companies. In addition to directing a number of technology innovations, he also directed the commercial introduction of the first plant biotechnology products for crop improvement and the first industrial and human health products produced from transgenic plants. He is an author of over 100  publications and patents in biotechnology.  Dr. Howard is the Founder and President of Applied Biotechnology Institute, a company focused on providing early-stage research and development for plant biotechnology products targeted to industrial and pharmaceutical markets with minimal risk.

Zivko Nikolov, Ph.D. is a Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University.  His research focuses on the development of recovery and purification strategies for recombinant biomolecules expressed in transgenic plants and microalgae.His research group applies modern scientific, engineering, and analytical tools to identify constraints posed by the biological system and recombinant product.Understanding these constraints is a critical step towards achieving a cost-effective downstream processing (process). Dr. Nikolov has an MS and Ph.D. from Iowa State University.
Peter Nelson is President & Executive Director at AgLaunch, Memphis, TN. Pete has been actively involved in building the support ecosystem for new agricultural enterprises for over 15 years working with a variety of public and private sector partners. He has helped launch multiple startup companies, as well as develop sector-specific initiatives to fund, incubate, and accelerate agricultural companies with high growth potential.