Entrepreneur Success Panel

The event will include some words from local entrepreneurs who have been in the shoes of our presenting companies. We're excited to put a spotlight on successful entrepreneurs in our innovation ecosystem.

Martha Schlicher, PhD

Executive in Residence

In her role as an Executive in Residence at BioGenerator, Martha Schlicher serves as the CEO of Impetus Agriculture, as Chairman of the Board of Plastomics, as a co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Solis Agrosciences, and as a co-founder of Susterco. She works closely with the BioGenerator Ag Ventures team to advance new innovations in agriculture by making the region attractive to agricultural startups and fostering the formation and advancement of new companies. Martha has more than 30 years of global life sciences experience leading the identification, development, commercialization, strategy, marketing, sales and financing of early to late stage agricultural technologies as an Executive at Monsanto and Mallinckrodt as well as startups in the agricultural sustainability space. She serves on the Board and Chair of the Audit Committee of publicly traded GreenLight Bio, as a Biosciences Expert Advisory Committee Member to Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and as a past advisor to the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernie Moniz. She has a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and an MBA from Northwestern University.

Walter Smith

President and CEO
OxaluRx, Inc.

Walter Smith is President and CEO of OxaluRx, Inc., a biotech company that is working on novel, oral drugs for chronic kidney disease that is entering preclinical development. Mr. Smith is. a scientific and business development consultant for several public and private biotech companies. He has over 40 years of industry experience spending 29 years at Pfizer and legacy companies where he was VP of Research for the Inflammation and Immunology Therapeutic Area. Mr. Smith made significant impact on patient care in the area of inflammation biology, arthritis drug development (Arthrotec®, Celebrex®, and Bextra®), and oncology supportive care. After Pfizer, Mr. Smith was CEO of Confluence Life Sciences, Inc., a drug discovery and development company based in St. Louis, MO which was sold to Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc in 2017. Currently Aclaris has 3 drugs in the clinic that came from the Confluence’s Kinect Technology platform with clinical trials ongoing in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Atopic Dermatitis.  Mr. Smith continues to be active in the St. Louis biotech scene and is a member of the BioGenerator Investment Advisory Committee.

Kevin Cook

Director of Breeding
CoverCress Inc.

Kevin Cook is Director of Breeding at CoverCress Inc.  He is a crop improvement research leader focused on addressing challenges of agriculture through genetics solutions.  CoverCress’ work to develop a high performance winter oilseed crop from a common weed is an example of the type of work Kevin excels in.  He is skilled in establishing and leading crop genetics programs that leverage technology to deliver on challenging genetic improvement objectives and timelines.  Kevin holds a PhD in plant breeding and Genetics from Iowa State University.  He learned the ropes of crop improvement at Monsanto where his work concentrated on corn with diverse roles in breeding, technology development, and genetic trait deployment, ultimately leading a global team responsible for corn trait deployment around the world.  Kevin’s recent years were invested in the St. Louis agtech startup world, leading technology and crop development initiatives as CTO of Kaiima and Director of Breeding at Benson Hill.  Kevin has lived in St. Louis since 2010 and values the dynamic work environment of the St. Louis agtech ecosystem that creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to grow ideas into businesses.

Moderated by:

Derek Rapp

Managing Director
RiverVest Venture Partners

Derek Rapp is a managing director at RiverVest Venture Partners, a life sciences venture capital firm that invests in early-stage biopharmaceutical and medical device companies. He joined RiverVest in 2019. Prior to RiverVest, Derek served as president & CEO of JDRF, the world’s largest non-government funder of diabetes research and a major advocacy group for the type 1 diabetes community, and as CEO for St. Louis-based, life sciences start-up Divergence, Inc., which he led to a successful exit. He worked for many years for Monsanto Company in a variety of roles, most notably head of mergers and acquisitions, where he led transactions totaling more than $7 billion. Derek began his career in mergers and acquisitions with Lazard Freres & Co. in New York.

Derek is a current member of the board of directors and the executive committee of Research!America, chairman of the board of directors of WeedOUT, a member of the board of directors of Cancer Research Foundation, and a member of the Global Mission Board of JDRF. He has served on numerous other boards, including chairing each of the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation Board of Directors, the Plant and Life Sciences Working Group in St. Louis, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Friends Board.

Derek earned an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an A.B. from Brown University.