Southeast TechInventures, Inc.
about us

Karen LeVert – CEO and Co-founder (email Karen)
Karen LeVert is co-founder and CEO of Southeast TechInventures (STI) and also co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Ag TechInventures, Inc. (AgTI). Both are technology accelerators focused on migrating promising technologies from university research labs to the commercial marketplace.

Ms. LeVert’s business experience encompasses both corporate and entrepreneurial worlds with leadership experience in entrepreneurial ventures, executive management, finance, and information technology. She began her career with a Fortune-500 company assuming roles from computer programmer, to systems manager, to controller, to general manager of a 500-person business unit. Her first entrepreneurial venture was the launch of a franchise bioremediation company in 1998 that focused on the eradication of grease, sugars, and starches. She sold the business in 2001. Before co-founding STI, Karen co-launched a Silicon Valley venture-funded software company where she served as Executive Vice-President of Business Development. Karen holds an MBA from the University of Dayton and an Information Technology undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University.

Along with her professional duties she serves as a Board member for Southeast TechInventures, Ag TechInventures, Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), and the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Karen is a former recipient of CED’s North Carolina’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Kristina Johnson – STI Co-founder, ex-Officio STI Team Member
Dr. Kristina Johnson is currently co-founder of Enduring Energy, Inc. that provides strategic advice on clean energy generation and utilization. Before co-founding Enduring Energy, Kristina served as Under Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. As Under Secretary, she was responsible for unifying and managing a broad $10.5 billion Energy and Environment portfolio. Prior to joining the Department of Energy, Kristina served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, the largest research university in the U.S. From 1999-2007, Kristina was Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. In addition to her academic career, Kristina is an inventor and entrepreneur, holding over 45 U.S. patents (129 U.S. and international patents) and co-founder of several successful companies including, ColorLink, Inc. Kristina has received numerous recognitions for her contributions to the field of engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation, including the John Fritz Medal, considered the highest award made in the engineering profession. Other holders of this honor include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Orville Wright. Kristina received her B.S, M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She also holds honorary degrees from Tufts University, Trinity College in Dublin, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Although not involved in STI’s day-to-day activities, Kristina continues to leverage her extensive experience and provide guidance in an as needed capacity on behalf of STI.

Ashok Mendiratta – Chief Commercialization Officer (email Ashok)
Dr. Ashok Mendiratta's expertise stems from extensive technology and business leadership experience in both corporate America (GE and Honeywell) and in startup operations. He started his career with GE's Corporate Research & Development Center as a scientist. Ashok was with GE for 17 years – holding technology and business leadership positions in increasingly responsible positions. Ashok was also heavily involved for 4 years in M&A and JV formation activities. In 2004 he co-founded Liquidia Technologies, a startup company with an innovative micro- and nano-technology platform. At Liquidia, Ashok drove various initiatives like negotiating licensing intellectual property rights from UNC Chapel Hill, forming strategic technology and commercial alliances, fundraising, and securing initial customers. Ashok earned his BS, MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering. He has been issued 21 patents, 6 of which are in commercial use in GE operations.

Meg Elmore – Director, Business Intelligence (email Meg)
Meg Elmore joined STI after 20+ years in high-growth entrepreneurial environments. Notably fifteen years were spent with Ernst & Young Consulting dealing with business expansions, start-ups and turnarounds. Her clients represented a cross-section of Industries and were some of the firm's premier accounts. Success in these environments required and further honed extensive business development, strategic planning, and process development experience. Among other accomplishments throughout her career she founded a national consulting practice focused on emerging technologies and in six years grew annual revenues to $22M; she created a new business development support team that generated over $250M in new sales to new and existing accounts; she orchestrated the spin-off of a $68M eLearning Company; and she was tapped to establish an Alliances, Acquisitions, and Strategy group. Meg is taking the lead on STI's expansion efforts and will bring these skills and experience to bear in order to ensure STI's and each new venture's success.

Deborah Rickard Bitterfield – Senior Scientist (email Deb)
Deborah received her B.A. from Drew University in Philosophy & Classics, her Ph.D. in Materials Science from Duke University, and a Certificate in Biologically Inspired Materials & Material Systems. Prior to obtaining her Ph.D. she was Program Coordinator for Duke University's Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace for four years. Her doctoral studies included extensive work on single-particle engineering of proteins and polymers, including Microglassification™ of proteins, one of STI's emerging technologies. She joined STI in 2011 and leads the research and development of Microglassification™.  Deborah has coordinated multiple SBIR and industry projects on medical devices, new drugs, drug delivery, and agriculture.

Neil Jones – VP Corporate Strategic Partnerships (email Neil)
A. Neil Jones leads STI’s Corporate Strategic Partnerships and works to ensure STI is developing technologies of strategic interest to industry.  Prior to STI, he served as vice president of the largest independent biorepository in the southeast and led the day-to-day business development operations and management of millions of biospecimens in support of global industry collaborations.  Previously, his career spanned the continuum from bench top drug discovery to progressing through various leadership roles in both public and private companies from start-ups to large pharma and biotech companies.  Mr. Jones received his formal education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has produced three US issued patents, over 20 scientific publications/abstracts in biotechnology and business healthcare.

Ram Ramabhadran – Senior Scientist (email Ram)
Ram Ramabhadran is a molecular biologist with extensive research and management experience in industrial, academic and government settings. He held increasingly responsible positions at Monsanto, Bayer, Neurogen and Tranzyme Inc. Most recently he worked for the Environmental Protection Agency as a Branch Chief and a Division Director. His areas of research expertise span molecular biology/biotechnology, biotherapeutics, neuroscience, virology, pharmacology drug discovery and development, and toxicology (including nanomaterials). He has a strong history of funding from philanthropic foundations (Alzheimer's, Cystic Fibrosis), NIH (SBIR, STTR), State (NC) and foreign government (Japan). He is experienced in business development and intellectual property management.

Ram consults for major non-profits working in global health. He holds adjunct faculty appointment at UNC Chapel Hill. He serves on the Scientific Review Board of International Rett Syndrome Foundation, scientific advisory boards of companies and non-profit organizations. Ram received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and holds master's degrees in biophysics and radiological physics.

               Southeast TechInventures, Inc.     |     PO Box 13714, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3714.     |     919-572-0200     |     Email