Chromatin’s Recent Success Highlighted in Crain’s Chicago Business

Category : Features
Posted on: June 12, 2014

Crain’s Chicago Business profiled the success of startup Chromatin, a graduate from the EnterpriseWorks incubator who currently has a 6,000-square foot footprint in the University of Illinois Research Park. Research Park is very proud of Chromatin’s team and their persistent diligence and hard work. Read the full featured article in Crain’s Chicago Business online.

Today, Chromatin’s teams in Champaign and Texas, working with eight nurseries around the world, develop thousands of new varieties of sorghum each year from traditional cross-breeding; varieties containing the company’s patented mini-chromosomes are under development.

The company, based in downtown Chicago, has 200 employees and tens of millions of dollars of annual revenue, though Ms. Preuss won’t disclose more exact numbers. In January, Chromatin raised $36 million in series E financing, with Wood Creek Capital Management of New Haven, Connecticut, leading the effort, raising its fetch to $70 million.

John Banta, CEO of IllinoisVentures LLC, a Chicago early-stage investment firm that has invested in Chromatin, says Ms. Preuss is a rarity. “The cultural divide between the two settings”—a university research lab and a startup business—“can be great, which is why it is so unusual for later-stage CEOs to derive from the lab/classroom,” he says.

Ms. Preuss, who holds a 1990 doctorate in biology from MIT, grew up in eastern Colorado. She saw herself becoming an inventor like her hero Thomas Edison, “deploying science to improve people’s lives.” As a teen, she worked in her family’s hardware distribution business, sweeping floors and making sales calls. She says her parents’ comeback from a fire that destroyed their warehouse helped inspire her own “rising from the ashes” story at Chromatin.