MEET THE TEAM
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Nicole is an experienced attorney and nonprofit executive. She co-founded the Material Innovation Initiative after identifying the rich potential of the next-gen materials market through her work catapulting plant-based foods into the mainstream. In her previous role as director of international engagement at the Good Food Institute, Nicole worked with key audiences around the world including companies, entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, and government officials to promote the development of alternatives to animal products. Her expertise in the field and in bringing together stakeholders made her a sought after speaker at conferences and high profile meetings in locations like Israel, Estonia, Poland, London, Brazil, India, and across the U.S.
Co-Founder & Board Chair
Stephanie is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience founding, building and selling businesses. She also spent over a decade as a Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant advising companies on alternatives to animal materials. She founded her first company in 1999, an internet marketing company which she sold in 2014. She founded her most recent venture in 2016, Good Dot, which quickly grew to be the largest plant-based meat company in India. She sold her interest to embark on helping build more innovative material companies. She has been awarded the 40 Under 40 Award in two US states; received the Dewey DoGooder Award from SxSW; and has been a TEDx speaker.
Director of Operations
Anne is an award-winning educator and organizer with 25+ years in administration, serving as executive director, director of operations, and director of development and programs at four non-profits, including two she co-founded. Most recently, she worked at The Good Food Institute, assisting the team with organization, operations, and strategy.
Director of Development
Jonathan has 20+ years of experience in nonprofit executive management, operations, program development, fundraising, and community engagement. He’s both founded and scaled small non- and for-profit startups (co-founded three, sold one) and supervised at top universities (Emory University: assisting to close a $1.6B capital campaign, UNC: principal and major gifts for capital campaign, and SCAD: Head of Institutional Advancement for five campuses across three continents). He is also a yogi, meditator, runner, and vegan.
Development Team Coordinator
Toube brings more than 15 years of executive assistant experience from tech startups, the banking industry and a high-impact nonprofit. She is passionate about creating a healthier, more compassionate world and serves as a consultant for California State University and Chico’s Town Hall Meeting program on the topic of the humane treatment of animals. Toube also holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.
Social Media Manager
Laura has a degree in Political Science from Dickinson College. Based in Maryland, she is a specialist in communications with in-depth experience with content creation and editing, branding, and all things social media. She worked as a writer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund and has held various communications roles in animal protection and environmental nonprofits.
Media Relations Manager
Sara is a recent graduate from the University of Florida where she majored in public relations with a concentration in event management. Based in Connecticut, her focus is in digital media and publicity. She grew up as a competitive equestrian with a huge passion for helping animals. Now she has combined her two passions of public relations and helping animals by doing freelance PR and publicity in this field.
Director of Communications
Emily has designed communications strategies for some of the most forward-thinking startups, nonprofits, and venture capital groups working to develop and support sustainable alternatives to common goods. After graduating from the School of Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill, Emily was a magazine writer and editor for a leading food industry publication before using her content creation skills to lead media, branding, and public relations efforts for mission-driven initiatives.
Senior Advisor, Fashion Sustainability
Lauren has a BS in Multidisciplinary Engineering from Purdue University and is a leader in multinational manufacturing environments, most recently at Gap. Her other roles in the field include Materials Developer at Nike, R&D Engineer in Global Innovation at Columbia Sportswear, and Studio Design Engineer at Chrysler.
Senior Advisor, Sourcing
John is a career fashion executive with over 30 years of experience in global sourcing, product development, and supply chains. He was the SVP of Product Development and Global Sourcing at both Kate Spade and JJill, and he was the VP of Global Production at Banana Republic. He is consistently recognized for outstanding results, with a constant focus on the ultimate retail consumer.
Senior Advisor, Fashion Design
Thomasine Dolan Dow has been in the fashion industry for 25 years. In addition to founding her own line, she worked for Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Armani Exchange, and others, where she held directorial and VP roles. She has consulted for both small and large brands and has a broad understanding of the process and the market.
Senior Advisor, Material Science
Claudia is an experienced technical product leader and materials engineer with a degree from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering. She led the Materials Innovation Team at Patagonia for over five years, where she oversaw the strategic portfolio of R&D partners and investments in raw materials, polymers, coatings, surface chemistry, and end of life solutions for apparel with an inclination toward environmental
Senior Advisor, Synthetic Biology
Lauren Dermody is a synthetic biologist with a passion for protecting the natural world. She has worked as a senior scientist at EnduraBio, matriculating at IndieBio accelerator, and at academic labs including Memorial Sloan Kettering. She graduated Magna cum Laude at Cornell University and completed her graduate education at Cornell Medical School.
Senior Advisor, Sustainability
Elissa Rosen received her master’s degree in sustainability from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in May 2020. The majority of Elissa’s career has been in the fashion/footwear industry in various leadership roles. She most recently worked with Wolverine Worldwide, collaborating with brands like Sperry, Keds, and Hush Puppies. She uses her experience and education to advocate for responsible business practices and positive environmental impact.
Senior Advisor, Innovation in Apparel and Footwear
Chase Kahmann has 11-years of cross-industry R&D experience on design, manufacturing, innovation, and sustainability with 8-years at Columbia Sportswear and in a contract capacity at Nike. He has received material and product awards in performance and sustainability-driven technologies leveraging polymers, fabrics, and manufacturing innovations and is an expert on next-gen materials and circularity driven recycling methods. He can be found through his consulting company Integrated Sustainability R&D.
Senior Advisor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Pankaj Karande is an assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Before joining Rensselaer, Prof. Karande was a postdoctoral scholar in the Chemical Engineering Department and Center for Cancer Research at MIT. Prof. Karande has received numerous awards for his work including The Edison Award for best Product in Science and Medicine (2009).
Tara St. James
Senior Advisor, Fashion Design and Sustainability
Tara St James has worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years. In addition to founding her own sustainable brand, she has consulted for both small and large brands and has a broad understanding of sustainable design and supply chain. Most recently Tara worked as Production Coordinator and Research Fellow in the Sustainable Strategies Lab for Pratt’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator. She has built a sustainable textile library and sourcing service to help the industry find responsible solutions. Tara also teaches a sustainable material sourcing course at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Senior Advisor, Recombinant Silk Protein
Helen Zha is an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She attended MIT and Northwestern University for her B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering. Helen brings with her 13+ years of experience in protein and peptide-based materials. Her research at Rensselaer focuses on the exploration of natural biomaterials and the synthesis of new biomimetic material technologies.
Senior Advisor, PR and Marketing
Marina Plentl is a PR executive with over 17 years of corporate experience working in the marketing departments of major global companies such as Sony and Burberry. An expert at brand & product marketing, Marina has strong connections across the global fashion & entertainment communities. After leading the entertainment team at Burberry in Los Angeles for ten years, Marina now lives in London where she works as a freelance consultant in this field.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Linne has a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an MBA from Thunderbird School of Management. She has in depth experience coaching and mentoring her colleagues to think more creatively about finance and how it drives decision-making. She is also fluent in Spanish and has lived in Spain and Mexico. She is currently the Senior Director of Finance for the Cardiac Rhythm Management and Neuro at Integer and serves as the treasurer of the MII board of directors.
Alicia is an experienced public speaker with a degree in Art History from New York University and certificate in Sustainable Business Strategy from Harvard Business School Online. Since 2007, she has been Investor Relations Adviser at Makinson Cowell, where she is head of North American institutional investor research and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) thought leadership. Her expertise in sustainability trends is a particular asset to the MII board of directors, where she serves as secretary.
Christie Lagally is the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, a food production technology company. Lagally is a mechanical engineer and spent much of her career in the aerospace industry working on commercial airplanes and spacecraft. She served as a Senior Scientist for the Good Food Institute uncovering the technical barriers in the development of plant-based meat and clean meat (i.e. cultured meat). She holds Bachelor's degrees in Organizational Psychology and Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Virginia, Jacqueline worked in New York City as a political fundraiser. Since then she has enjoyed a diverse career spanning both public and private sectors, most recently as a Senior Account Executive for Open Table working with local and national restaurant chains as well as independent operators. She also serves as a senior advisor to the Good Food Institute and Factory Farming Awareness Coalition among others.
Angela Padilla is a corporate lawyer and longtime animal advocate. Most recently she served as Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Litigation & Employment at Uber in San Francisco. In addition to taking on pro bono cases to advance animal rights, Angela founded the nonprofit Family Dog Rescue in 2010 as another way to give back to the animals who gave her comfort and inspiration through a battle with aggressive breast cancer. She received her J.D. degree from Columbia University School of Law, her B.A. degree from Harvard College.