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Origin Materials Adds Key New Technical Hires to Further Strengthen Global Technology Leadership in Carbon Negative Materials

Mish Boyka

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WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif .– (BUSINESS WIRE) –Origin Materials, Inc. (“Origin Materials”), the world’s leading carbon negative materials company, today announced the addition of Mr. Jim Wells, Dr. Ben Freireich, and Dr. Madhu Anand to the company’s technical team.

Origin Materials’ new technical hires will play a key role in leveraging the company’s patented, breakthrough carbon negative platform technology to develop and scale new innovations. Origin Materials believes its technology will help revolutionize the production of a wide range of end products, including clothing, textiles, plastics, packaging, car parts, tires, carpeting, toys and more with a ~ 1 trillion addressable market.

“I am very pleased to welcome these highly skilled veterans to Origin Materials to further bolster our global technology leadership and capabilities in carbon negative materials,” said John Bissell, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Origin Materials. “Jim, Ben and Madhu bring deep chemical, energy and solids processing experience to Origin Materials and their technical expertise will play a pivotal role in driving our innovation pipeline to deliver carbon negative solutions to our global customer base across a wide range of product end markets . ”

Jim Wells joins Origin Materials as a Technical Director with 39 years of experience in the chemical industry. During his 39-year career at The Dow Chemical Company, Mr. Wells was responsible for developing, designing, building, and starting up industrial chemical plants, leading project teams and developing unique technologies. In January 2018, Mr. Wells retired from Dow as Associate Director of Technology for the Dow AgroScience division. He is a recognized subject matter expert in project management, engineering and manufacturing work processes, reactive chemicals and layer of protection GFN, and solids processing, handling and packaging. Mr. Wells served in the United States Army and graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Chemical Engineering.

Ben Freireich joins Origin Materials as a Technical Fellow with more than a decade of experience in the chemical and process industries. Dr. Freireich comes to Origin Materials as a leading industry expert in both product and process research and development for solid materials. Prior to Origin Materials, Dr. Freireich served as the Technical Director of Particulate Solid Research, Inc. (PSRI) where he led applied process research efforts for a consortium of over thirty multinational corporations. He was previously a Research Scientist in Core R&D at The Dow Chemical Company, where he served as subject matter expert responsible for product and process development over a wide range of businesses, products, and technologies. Dr. Freireich is a specialist in particle technology with expertise in particle design, powder flowability, mixing, fluidization, size enlargement, attrition, and other areas of solids engineering, and has authored chapters of Perry’s Chemical Engineering Handbook. He obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University studying manufacturing processes involving solid materials. Dr. Freireich also holds a Master of Science in Engineering from Purdue and graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

Madhu Anand joins Origin Materials as a Technical Director with more than 15 years of experience in the oil and energy industry. Prior to Origin Materials, Dr. Anand held various roles at Phillips 66, most recently serving as Chief Engineer of Hydroprocessing & Naphtha Upgrading, where she played a key role in strategy, technology evaluation and development, product management, joint venture management, and commercial development. Dr. Anand is highly skilled at developing technologies and solving complex problems for the refining, renewables, and petrochemical sectors and is recognized for directing scale-up projects from lab to commercial implementation involving multidisciplinary teams. She completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University, where she received the 2007 Outstanding Graduate Award for excellence in research, and graduated from Panjab University in India with a BS in Chemical Engineering.

About Origin Materials

Headquartered in West Sacramento, Origin Materials is the world’s leading carbon negative materials company. Origin Materials’ mission is to enable the world’s transition to sustainable materials. Over the past 10 years, Origin Materials has developed a platform for turning the carbon found in non-food biomass into useful materials, while capturing carbon in the process. Origin Materials’ patented drop-in core technology, economics and carbon impact have been validated by trusted third parties and are supported by a growing list of major global customers and investors. Origin Materials’ first plant is expected to be operational in 2022 with a second, full-scale commercial plant expected to be operational by 2025 and plans for additional expansion over the next decade.

On February 17, 2021, Origin Materials and Artius Acquisition Inc. (“Artius”) (Nasdaq: AACQU, AACQ), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced a definitive agreement for a business combination that will result in Origin Materials becoming a public company. Upon closing of the transaction, expected in the second quarter of 2021, the combined company will be named Origin Materials and remain listed on the Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol “ORGN.” The transaction is expected to fully fund Origin Materials until EBITDA positive, and allows Origin Materials to scale and commence commercial production to meet signed customer offtake and capacity reservations of ~ $ 1 billion across a diverse range of industries.

For more information, visit www.originmaterials.com.

Important Information for Investors and Stockholders

In connection with the proposed business combination transaction, Artius filed a registration statement on Form S-4 (the “Registration Statement”) with the SEC on March 9, 2021, which includes a preliminary proxy statement to be distributed to holders of Artius’s ordinary shares in connection with Artius’s solicitation of proxies for the vote by Artius’s stockholders with respect to the proposed transaction and other matters as described in the Registration Statement, as well as the prospectus relating to the offer of securities to be issued to Artius’s and Origin Materials’ stockholders in connection with the proposed transaction. After the Registration Statement has been declared effective, Artius will mail a definitive proxy statement, when available, to its stockholders. Investors and security holders and other interested parties are urged to read the proxy statement / prospectus, any amendments thereto and any other documents filed with the SEC carefully and in their entirety when they become available because they will contain important information about Artius, Origin Materials and the proposed transaction. The documents relating to the proposed transaction (when they are available) can be obtained free of charge from the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. Free copies of these documents, once available, may also be obtained from Artius by directing a request to: Artius Management LLC, 3 Columbus Circle, Suite 2215 New York, New York 10019.

Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including with respect to the proposed transaction between Origin Materials and Artius. Forward-looking statements are usually accompanied by words such as “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “expect,” “should,” “would, ”“ Plan, ”“ predict, ”“ potential, ”“ seem, ”“ seek, ”“ future, ”“ outlook, ”and similar expressions that predict or indicate future events or trends or that are not statements of historical matters. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding Origin Materials’ business strategy, estimated total addressable market, commercial and operating plans, product development plans and projected financial information. These statements are based on various assumptions, whether or not identified in this press release, and on the current expectations of the management of Origin Materials and are not predictions of actual performance. These forward-looking statements are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to serve as, and must not be relied on as, a guarantee, an assurance, a prediction, or a definitive statement of fact or probability. Actual events and circumstances are difficult or impossible to predict and will differ from assumptions. Many actual events and circumstances are beyond the control of Origin Materials and Artius. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including that Origin Materials may be unable to successfully commercialize its products; the effects of competition on Origin Materials’ business; the uncertainty of the projected financial information with respect to Origin Materials; disruptions and other impacts to Origin Materials’ business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global health or economic crises; changes in customer demand; Origin Materials and Artius may be unable to successfully or timely consummate the proposed business combination, including the risk that any regulatory approvals may not be obtained, may be delayed or may be subject to unanticipated conditions that could adversely affect the combined company or the expected benefits of the business combination, or that the approval of the stockholders of Artius or Origin Materials may not be obtained; failure to realize the anticipated benefits of the business combination; the amount of redemption requests made by Artius’ stockholders, and those factors discussed in the Registration Statement under the heading “Risk Factors,” and other documents Artius has filed, or will file, with the SEC. If any of these risks materialize or our assumptions prove incorrect, actual results could differ materially from the results implied by these forward-looking statements. There may be additional risks that Origin Materials presently does not know, or that Origin Materials currently believes are immaterial, that could also cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements. In addition, forward-looking statements reflect Origin Materials’ expectations, plans, or forecasts of future events and views as of the date of this press release. Origin Materials anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause its assessments to change. However, while Origin Materials may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, Origin Materials specifically disclaim any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon upon representing Origin Materials’ assessments of any date subsequent to the date of this press release. Accordingly, undue reliance should not be placed upon the forward-looking statements.

Participants in the Solicitation

Artius, Origin Materials and their respective directors, executive officers and employees and other persons may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from Artius’ shareholders in connection with the proposed business combination. Information about Artius’s directors and executive officers and their ownership of Artius’s securities is set forth in the Registration Statement described above. Additional information regarding the interests of those persons and other persons who may be deemed participants in the proposed transaction may be obtained by reading other documents Artius has filed, or will file, with the SEC regarding the proposed business combination, including the definitive proxy statement when it becomes available.

Non-Solicitation

This communication is not a proxy statement or solicitation of a proxy, consent or authorization with respect to any securities or in respect of the potential transaction and shall not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities of Artius, the combined company or Origin Materials, nor shall there be any sale of any such securities in any state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of such state or jurisdiction. No offer of securities shall be made except by means of a prospectus meeting the requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.

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Vermont Health Connect had 10 data breaches last winter

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Vermont Health Connect had 10 data breaches last winter
Vermont Health Connect has set up a special enrollment period in response to the coronavirus outbreak. VHC photo

In mid-December, a Vermont Health Connect user was logging in when the names of two strangers popped up in the newly created account.

The individual, who was trying to sign up for health insurance, deleted the information that had suddenly appeared.

“It was super unsettling to think that someone is filing in my account with my information,” the person, whose name is redacted in records, wrote in a complaint to the Department of Vermont Health Access. “Just seems like the whole thing needs a big overhaul.”

It was one of 10 instances between November and February when Vermont Health Connect users reported logging to find someone else’s information on their account.

The data breaches included names of other applicants and, in some cases, their children’s names, birth dates, citizenship information, annual income, health care plans, and once, the last four digits of a Social Security number, according to nearly 900 pages of public records obtained by VTDigger. On Dec. 22, the department’s staff shut down the site to try to diagnose the problem.

While officials say the glitches have been resolved, it’s the most recent mishap for a system that has historically been plagued by security and technical issues. The breaches could be even more widespread: Administrators of Vermont Health Connect can’t tell if other, similar breaches went unreported.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Jon Rajewski, a managing director at the cybersecurity response company Stroz Friedberg. Regardless of whether there are legal ramifications for the incidents, they should be taken “very seriously,” he said.

“If my data was being stored on a website that was personal, — maybe it contains names or my Social Security number, like my status of insurance… — I would expect that website to secure it and keep it safe,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want someone else to access my personal information.”

Andrea De La Bruere, executive director of the Agency of Human Services, called the data breaches “unfortunate.” But she downplayed the severity of the issues. Between November and December, 75,000 people visited the Vermont Health Connect website for a total of 330,000 page views, she said. The 10 incidents? “It’s a very uncommon thing to have happen,” she said.

De La Bruere said the issue was fixed on Feb. 17, and users had reported no similar problems since. The information that was shared was not protected health information, she added, and the breaches didn’t violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

“No matter what the law says technically, whether it’s HIPAA-related or just one’s personal information, it’s really concerning,” said Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher.

The timing of the issue is less than ideal, he added. Thousands of Vermonters will be logging into Vermont Health Connect in the coming weeks to take advantage of discounts granted by the American Rescue Plan. “It’s super important that people can access the system, and that it’s safe and secure,” Fisher said.

A ‘major issue

The issues first arose on Nov, 12, when at least two Vermonters logged in and found information about another user, according to records obtained by VTDigger.

Department of Vermont Health Access workers flagged it as a “major issue” for their boss, Kristine Fortier, a business application support specialist for the department.

Similar incidents also occurred on Nov. 17 and 18, and later on multiple days in December.

Department of Vermont Health Access staff members appeared alarmed at the issues, and IT staff escalated the tickets to “URGENT.”

“YIKES,” wrote a staff member Brittney Richardson. While the people affected were notified, the data breaches were never made public.

State workers pressed OptumInsights, a national health care tech company that hosts and manages Vermont Health Connect, for answers. The state has contracted with the company since 2014. It has paid about $11 million a year for the past four years for maintenance and operations, with more added in “discretionary funds.”

Optum appeared unable to figure out the glitch. “It is hard to find root cause of issue,” wrote Yogi Singh, service delivery manager for Optum on Dec. 10. Optum representatives referred comments on the issues to the state.

By Dec. 14, Grant Steffens, IT manager for the department, raised the alarm. “I’m concerned on the growing number of these reports,” he wrote in an email to Optum.

The company halted the creation of new accounts on Dec, 14, and shut down the site entirely on Dec, 22 to install a temporary fix. “It’s a very complex interplay of many many pieces of software on the back end,” said Darin Prail, agency director of digital services. The complexity made it challenging to identify the problem, and to fix it without introducing any new issues, he said.

In spite of the fixes, a caller reported a similar incident on Jan. 13.

On Feb. 8, a mother logged in to find that she could see her daughter’s information. When she logged into her daughter’s account, the insurance information had been replaced by her own.

“Very weird,” the mother wrote in an emailed complaint.

Optum completed a permanent fix on Feb. 17, according to Prail. Vermont Health Connect has not had a problem since, he said.

Prail said the state had reported the issues to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services as required, and had undergone a regular audit in February that had no findings. The state “persistently pressured Optum to determine the root cause and correct the issue expeditiously but at the same time, cautiously, so as to not introduce additional issues/problems,” he wrote in an email to VTDigger.

“We take reported issues like this very seriously,” he said.

A history of glitches

The state’s health exchange has been replete with problems, including significant security issues and privacy violations, since it was built in 2012 at a cost of $200 million.

The state fired its first contractor, CGI Technology Systems, in 2014. A subcontractor, Exeter, went out of business in 2015. Optum took over for CGI, and continued to provide maintenance and tech support for the system.

Don Turner
Don Turner, right, then the House minority leader, speaks in 2016 about the need to fix the state’s glitch-ridden Vermont Health Connect website. With him are Phil Scott, left, then the lieutenant governor, and Sen. Joe Benning. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

In 2018, when Vermont Health Connect was less than 6 years old, a report dubbed the exchange outdated and “obsolete.”

Officials reported similar privacy breaches in 2013, when Vermonters saw other people’s information.

An auditor’s report in 2016 found a slew of cybersecurity flaws, and officials raised concerns again during a  2018 email breach.

It wasn’t the first time that Vermont Health Connect users had been able to view other people’s personal information. Three times since October 2019, individuals had logged in to see another individual’s insurance documents. Prail attributed those incidents to human error, not to system glitch; a staff member uploaded documents to the wrong site, he said.

In spite of the issues, Prail said he and other state officials have been happy with Optum. After years of technical challenges with Vermont Health Connect, “Optum has really picked up the ball and improved it and been running it pretty well,” he said.

Glitches are inevitable, he added, and Optum has addressed them quickly. “They took a really difficult-to-manage site and made it work pretty well,” he said. “Optum is generally quite responsive to any issues we have.”

“I find any privacy breach to be concerning,” said Scott Carbee, chief information security officer for the state. He noted that the state uses “hundreds of software systems.” “While the scope of the breaches can be mitigated, true prevention is a difficult task,” he wrote in an email to VTDigger.

Optum spokesperson Gwen Moore Holliday referred comments to the state, but said the company was “honored” to work with Vermont Health Connect “to support the health care needs of Vermont residents.”

Prail said the Agency of Human Services had no plans to halt its contract with the company. “I don’t have a complaint about Optum,” he said. “They took a really difficult-to-manage site and made it work pretty well.”

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Health Care

Tags: data breaches, Optum, Vermont Health Connect

Katie Jickling

About Katie

Katie Jickling covers health care for VTDigger. She previously reported on Burlington city politics for Seven Days. She has freelanced and interned for half a dozen news organizations, including Vermont Public Radio, the Valley News, Northern Woodlands, Eating Well magazine and the Herald of Randolph. She is a graduate of Hamilton College and a native of Brookfield.