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Updated: May 20, 2021

Mass. tech startup to join growing ranks of Roux Institute residents, says hiring 'underway'

Jill Becker portrait Courtesy / Kebotix Jill Becker, who earned a Master of Arts degree and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University, is the founder and CEO of Kebotix, based in Cambridge, Mass. The company employs more than 30 people in Massachusetts and Canada and is seeking new talent in Maine.

Kebotix Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based technology startup, is partnering with Northeastern University's Roux Institute in Portland to establish an office and research footprint in Maine and to hire local talent.

The venture capital-backed startup, founded in 2017, has developed a platform that uses artificial intelligence and robotic automation to discover chemicals and materials significantly faster and more affordably than by conventional means, Kebotix says.

“Kebotix is a long-tenured research partner of Northeastern, and we’ve been fortunate to extend our relationship to the Roux Institute,” Michael Pollastri, senior vice provost and academic lead for the Roux Institute, said in Wednesday's announcement. 

"Through this new engagement and in the months ahead, Kebotix will establish its first Maine footprint via our campus — a co-located home base for new hires, continued research and shared innovation.”

Kebotix, which currently employs more than 30 people in Massachusetts and Canada, will become the Roux Institute's seventh resident startup business since the institute was founded last year. Another 10 are coming this fall as part of a new tech accelerator program, a spokesperson told Mainebiz on Thursday.

With a goal of transforming Portland into a regional "innovation hub" for technology and life sciences, the institute was launched through a $100 million donation from Lewiston native David Roux, and his wife, Barbara, from the Roux Family Foundation.

Hiring in Portland 'underway'

Kebotix said that hiring for the new facility's opening in Portland is already underway.

Jill S. Becker, the company's founder and CEO, said in Wednesday's announcement that a presence in northern New England where many raw materials manufacturers are based "will be of great benefit as we develop environmentally friendly specialty substances."

She added: "We recognize Portland as an exciting, fast-growing innovation hub that combines high-end technology with a rich bio-feedstock base. What a perfect place and time it is to extend our expertise in machine learning and materials science at the Roux Institute. The location also helps in our mission to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals."

The goals, 17 in total broken down into 5,410 individual actions, were adopted as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by all UN member countries in 2015.

For Kebotix, the Roux Institute will be its third facility outside its Cambridge headquarters. It also has locations in Toronto and Woburn, Mass. 

While further details about the company's staffing plans in Maine were not immediately available, a company spokesperson told Mainebiz that Kebotix is growing its Maine team as the economy reopens, and that hiring will start with software roles.

"Maine is an up-and-coming tech hub that Kebotix wants to be a part of," she added.

Kebotix's investors include Novo Holdings A/S, SIT Capital, One Way Ventures, ArcTern Ventures, Flybridge Investors, Baidu Ventures, Embark Ventures and Propagator Ventures.

The company's partnership with Northeastern began in 2019 when the tech company first collaborated with Northeastern professor Steven Lopez’s research group on a cancer research project supported by a $750,000 research grant from the Massachusetts Life Science Center.  

“We’re delighted to expand our work with Dr. Steven Lopez’s research team to a second Northeastern campus,” said Semion Saikin, Kebotix’s chief science officer. “Soon we’ll announce our first collaborations at the Roux Institute and potentially other new areas of research at Northeastern.”

Lopez, an assistant chemistry professor at Northeastern, said, "Our research partnership has been extremely fruitful so far. I look forward to all that will be accomplished in this unique new environment."

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