Dr. Jack Starr joins BioMade as inaugural chief manufacturing officer

Jan. 29, 2024
Minnesota bioindustrial manufacturing site will be first of many from the Manufacturing Innovation Institute

As the Manufacturing Innovation Institute catalyzed by the U.S. Department of Defense that supports the development of biomanufacturing technologies, BioMade and its network of more than 250 members across 37 states are working toward strengthening American competitiveness, creating a more resilient supply chain, re-shoring manufacturing jobs and producing more sustainable products without relying on foreign sources of energy. BioMade’s mission also includes building a diverse and globally competitive STEM workforce to ensure American workers are prepared and ready to fill new jobs.

As chief manufacturing officer, Dr. Jack Starr will drive the development and deployment of a network of between 12 and 15 pilot- to intermediate-scale bioindustrial manufacturing facilities, including BioMade’s recently announced site in Minnesota. The United States has its eye on becoming the global leader in bioindustrial manufacturing, and these facilities are designed to allow American innovation to effectively transition to manufacturing and product commercialization.

In June, BioMade announced is first bioindustrial manufacturing site in Minnesota, following support of up to $100 million from Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature in the 2023 legislative session. The biomanufacturing infrastructure investments in Minnesota start the national network of critically needed pilot-scale biomanufacturing innovation facilities.

“Minnesota is ready to be a leader in bioindustrial manufacturing,” said Walz. “The positive impacts of bioindustrial manufacturing will go far beyond farming and rural communities, benefiting everyone by creating new products domestically, strengthening supply chains and helping reach ambitious climate goals. From the farm to the manufacturing floor, bioindustrial manufacturing holds real promise for industry, farmers and workforce in the state of Minnesota and the nation as a whole. From Fortune 20 companies to higher education to tech entrepreneurs, I’m excited for Minnesota to play a significant leadership role in the next generation manufacturing economy.”

Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota commended Walz and legislative leaders for passing a state match to federal funding she secured for the development of bioindustrial manufacturing hubs. “This investment puts Minnesota at the forefront of revolutionizing manufacturing to harness homegrown agricultural products to deliver a cleaner, sustainable biomanufacturing economy and help achieve our carbon reduction goals,” she said.

“We look forward to building partnerships with state and regional stakeholders as we identify sites and move forward with this infrastructure investment,” said Dr. Douglas Friedman, BioMade chief executive officer. “We’re grateful to Governor Walz, Congresswoman McCollum and the Minnesota legislature for their vision and support of this national initiative. Together, we are poised to secure domestic supply chains, develop sustainable products that are better for the environment, create new markets for American farmers and provide new jobs to urban and rural communities.”

Bioindustrial manufacturing uses biology to convert agricultural feedstocks and waste streams to high-value chemicals, materials and products, such as cement, fire-resistant materials, durable fibers, bioplastics and food products.

The bipartisan support from the state of Minnesota builds on federal investment and domestic biomanufacturing priorities established by Congress and the Biden administration. Congress included an initial investment of $300 million through the FY23 Consolidated Appropriations Act to support the first phase of a network of pilot-scale bioindustrial manufacturing infrastructure around the country. Additionally, in September 2022, Biden signed Executive Order 14081, which was issued to provide a whole-of-government approach for building a sustainable, safe and secure American bioeconomy.

By bridging the gap from lab-scale research to at-scale manufacturing, this network of facilities will help companies scale up sustainable products, create new markets for American farmers and provide new jobs, all while securing a domestic supply chain. Starr will oversee site selection, design, construction and operations for the national network.

Starr joins BioMade from Cargill, where his professional expertise centered on process development, piloting and the deployment of advanced solutions for manufacturing. As a research and development director for 15 years at Cargill, Starr and his team deployed solutions to improve the maturity of Cargill operations using capabilities such as process simulation, process control and advanced analytics. Most recently, he was a leader in Cargill’s Smart Manufacturing program where he worked with multi-functional teams to address global stakeholders on deploying advanced solutions.

Starr also spent 10 years at NatureWorks, a Cargill joint venture that was a pioneer in biomanufacturing with the development of polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic made from renewable resources. There, he drove the process development effort for innovative lactic-acid technologies working with both joint-venture partners. This work culminated in building a lactic-acid plant that provides the raw materials to NatureWork’s PLA manufacturing facility in Nebraska.

Earlier in his career, Starr worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the process development and scale-up of new pharmaceutical active ingredients. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering from Iowa State University and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively.

Starr completes BioMade’s executive team, joining CEO Friedman; Melanie Tomczak, head of programs and chief technology officer; Diane Pierotti, chief financial and operating officer; Genya Dana, chief strategy and bioeconomic development officer; and Jayne Laiprasert, general counsel.