Smita Shankar is VP of Biomanufacturing at Impossible Foods. In this role, she oversees various R&D, engineering and operations teams. Prior to this role at Impossible, Smita led Microbial Strain and Fermentation Development as VP of R&D. As an early hire at Impossible Foods, Smita established the yeast strain development program in early 2014, after Impossible Foods identified Soy Leghemoglobin as its key ingredient. This involved bringing on new technology, setting up a laboratory from scratch, developing new workflows and most importantly, identifying exceptional scientists and engineers to work on the problem. This work resulted in a patent covering the methods Impossible Foods uses to produce its heme.
Smita played a key role during the company’s scale-up process, which drove her personal growth into leadership. Successful scale up to the manufacturing phase for Impossible Foods required extremely close collaboration between the scientists and engineers, and a clear understanding of the company’s business needs. These successes enabled the rapid commercialization of the Impossible Burger, and supported the company’s expansion to where it is today.
Prior to Impossible Foods, Smita’s first experience with industrial biotechnology was at Codexis, where she worked on engineering microbes to make sustainable bio-based detergent alcohols.
Smita earned her Bachelor’s in Science in Human Biology and Biophysics from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. Following that, she received her Masters’ Degree in Biotechnology from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. Smita came to the United States from India for graduate school in 2001. She got her Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology at Cornell University, where she worked in the field of bacterial and phage gene expression. Following her Ph.D., Smita pursued post-doctoral work at University of California, San Francisco, where she learned the skill of yeast strain manipulation.