About zuChem

zuChem is a leading producer of unique sugars for human health and nutrition. zuChem develops proprietary process technology to manufacture important food ingredients, specialty chemicals and pharmaceutical carbohydrates. The zuChem approach combines unique bioprocess and chemical technologies to make valuable carbohydrates that are either expensive, impractical, or impossible to make by traditional methods. zuChem researchers have a proven track record in developing and implementing scalable, industrial quality processes. zuChem.

Who We Are

David Demirjian, Ph.D.
President & CEO, Director

davidDr. Demirjian was previously Founder and President of ThermoGen, Inc., a Chicago-based bioprocess company which was a pioneer of esterase biocatalysis technology for pharmaceutical applications. He is a previous winner of the Research Director’s Association of Chicago “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” (1997) and recipient of the U.S. SBA “Tibbets Award” for successful commercialization of technology developed under the Federal SBIR grant program. He was subsequently Vice President of Technology Strategy for MediChem Life Sciences after MediChem’s merger with ThermoGen in May 2000, where he oversaw the strategic development of MediChem’s R&D technology platform, including the integration of its drug discovery and chemical process technologies. He was one of the leaders of MediChem’s IPO, in which the company raised over $52 MM in October 2000. He also served as a Director of the company until its acquisition in May 2002 to deCode Genetics. He holds a Ph.D. in Genetics from The University of Chicago and B.S.A. in Molecular Biology from The University of Michigan.

Michael Racine, Ph. D.
Director of Fermentation Technology

michaelDr. Racine is an expert in fermentation optimization and scale-up and process engineering with over 20 years of industrial experience. He brings to zuChem an understanding of fermentation optimization and how a final production process will need to be developed in order to successfully implement it at commercial scale. From 1982- 1989 Dr. Racine worked at Enzyme Technologies Corporation where he directed programs for improving bacterial and fungal strains for production of commercially important enzymes for starch processing. From 1989 – 2002 he managed process optimization activities at Genencor International, including fermentation technology development and strain development. Dr. Racine received his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1974 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville and his B.S. in Biology in 1969 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia.


David Dodds, Ph.D.

Scientific Advisor

doddsiconDr. Dodds was most recently Director of Fermentation & Biocatalysis Development with Bristol-Myers Squibb. He previously held a position at Sepracor in its start-up phase, and was in charge of enzyme catalysis development.  This work ultimately produced a number of patents on the enzymatic resolution of NSAIDs and Diltiazem. He subsequently joined Schering-Plough to help establish their biocatalysis group, before joining Bristol-Myers Squibb. He has been involved in multiple aspects of drug manufacturing, including chemical and fermentation process development molecular biology and microbiology and the development of intellectual property in these areas. He has a B.Sc. in Biochemistry, a M.Sc. in Biological Chemistry, a Ph.D. in Organic Synthesis, all from the University of Toronto.


Grant Brewen, Ph.D.

President and CEO, Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation

grant_brewenDr. Brewen became President and Chief Executive Officer of the Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation (BRDC) in Peoria, Illinois in 1988. He was responsible for guiding the start-up research and development consortium through its first years of operation, and has managed the corporation for the past fourteen years. Prior the BRDC, he worked for nine years at Allied Chemical Corporation (now Honeywell International) as Director of Biosciences in the Corporate Research and Development unit in Morristown, New Jersey. Dr. Brewen also worked at the Biology Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee from June, 1963 until February, 1979. During his tenure at Oak Ridge he spent a one year sabbatical in Canberra, Australia in 1967 and a six month sabbatical as Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley in 1977. Dr. Brewen was educated at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; B.A. 1961 (honors), Ph.D. 1963, in biology with a major in cell biology.

Thomas L. Churchwell

Managing Partner, Midwest Venture Partners, L.L.C.

churchwellsmallTom Churchwell is the founder and CEO of ViMedicus, Inc. ViMedicus develops and markets patient centric care coordination solutions. He is also Managing Partner of Midwest Venture Partners and of ARCH Development Partners early stage venture partnerships. Previously, he was President and CEO of ARCH Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the University of Chicago, which commercialized technology from the University and Argonne National Laboratory. Prior to that, he was President and CEO of Calgene Fresh, Inc., a 1992 start-up company which produced and marketed the MacGregor’s FLAVR SAVR tomato, the world’s first biotech food product. Prior to joining Calgene Fresh, Mr. Churchwell was Vice President of ARCH Development Corporation Development. Before starting Calgene Fresh, Mr. Churchwell held several senior management positions at the NutraSweet Company and legal positions at G.D. Searle & Co., American Hospital Supply Corporation and The Coca-Cola Export Corporation. He holds a BA degree from DePauw Universityand JD degree from Northwestern University School of Law. He also is a Graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.


Douglas S. Stewart


Regional President, National City Bank, Peoria, Illinois

dstewartsmallDouglas S. Stewart is currently the Regional President of PNC Bank for Central Illinois. Mr. Stewart has held an impressive series of banking positions datingback to 1973 when he began his career as a Trainee at Commercial National Bank of Peoria (predecessor to PNC). Mr. Stewart graduated Magna Cum Laude from Illinois Wesleyan University where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1973, and from Bradley University in 1980 where he earned his Masters in Business Administration. Mr. Stewart’s 38 year banking career has included management positions in Wealth Management, Institution Investment Management, Retail Banking and Corporate Banking. He has also taught at Bradley University, Illinois Central College and Northwestern University Graduate Trust School. Mr. Stewart is active in community affairs. Currently he serves on the Boards of Bradley University, The Heartland Partnership, Peoria NEXT, CEO Roundtable and the Bielfeldt Foundation. Along with his wife, Vicky, they are chairing the 2011 Pillars Society Campaign for the Heart of Illinois United Way. In addition to his civic commitments he also serves as an outside director for zuChem, AKOYA and the Federal Companies.

Rajni Aneja, M.B.A.
Founder, Advisor

rajniMs. Aneja was most recently Vice President, Corporate Development, MediChem Life Sciences, and had an instrumental role in the recent merger between MediChem and ThermoGen, in addition to having negotiated MediChem’s strategic alliance with the global fine chemicals manufacturer, Degussa AG. She has more than twenty years of experience in commercializing of early stage life sciences products and has previously held positions with Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Laboratories and ARCH Development Corporation, the technology transfer affiliate of The University of Chicago. She is a recipient of I-Street’s 2003 “Women in Black” award which recognizes outstanding contribution to the Chicago entrepreneurial community. She holds a M.B.A. in Business Economics and Finance from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Jeffrey A. Whitnell, CPA, M.B.A.

JWpicMr. Whitnell is an accomplished finance executive with over 15 years of healthcare experience in senior leadership positions in the life sciences industry. Previously, Mr. Whitnell was Chief Financial Officer for Reliefband Medical Technologies, a medical device company. Prior to Reliefband, he served as CFO for Akorn, Inc., Vice President of Finance and Treasurer for Ovation Pharmaceuticals, and Vice President of Finance and Treasurer for MediChem Life Sciences. He currently serves as a Director for Elite Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a publicly traded specialty pharmaceuticals company. He is a certified public accountant and holds an M.B.A. in Finance from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Illinois.