New lab, investments, board member put Miromatrix on 2-year track for first product

There’s never a dull day at Miromatrix. In the past month, the Glencoe, Minnesota biotech company has moved into a new custom-designed laboratory and welcomed a two-term Minnesota governor to its board of directors, all while working on a two-year timeline for the launch of its first product.

You probably know Miromatrix as the University of Minnesota spinoff working to commercialize the renowned research of Dr. Doris Taylor, the director for University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair. In a lab, Taylor drained the cellular material from the heart of a dead rat and refilled the extracellular matrix with cells from new born rats to create a beating animal heart.

Since Miromatrix licensed the technology from the university in 2010, the company ousted Taylor from the board, landed $500,000 in loans from the state and opened a $5 million fundraise.

CEO Robert Cohen said he had to be somewhat mum since the company is still in the middle of a fundraising round, but he did say the company was closing in on its first round of financing and would continue to fundraise afterward. The company has received lots of local support, he said, from the university, the state of Minnesota, the town of Glencoe and local investors. He added that the company has had a few “strategic transactions” with institutions, including the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Before Miromatrix can devote its full attention to creating human organs — a complicated, time-consuming task, as we can only imagine — the company needs to generate some money to keep its investors happy and to keep the company in a good position, Cohen said. So it’s developing a cardiac-derived biomesh for hernia repair and breast reconstruction as its first product, which Cohen said can be on the market in two years. Buoyed by the success of Strattice, a sterile tissue that’s implanted in breast reconstruction patients to reinforce soft tissues, regenerate cells and help develop new blood vessel networks, the market for the biomesh is about $2 billion and very accepting of new products, he said.

This really won’t set the company behind in its ultimate goal, since the biomesh is just an early application of Taylor’s technology. “For all of our organ-based products in our pipeline, the first steps are exactly the same as it takes to make the mesh,” Cohen said.

That mesh is currently being worked on in the company’s brand new lab in Glencoe. Although it’s only about 800-square feet, that’s all the company needs for now, Cohen said, and it was designed specifically to meet the company’s needs. And most importantly, it’s close to some of their key suppliers.

Along with its move out of University Enterprise Labs, Miromatrix made another move in October — bringing on a new board member, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who Cohen said adds an entirely different element to the board because he’s aware of the industry but not part of it.

“We can avoid what happens so many times on small board filled with industry people — you get into groupthink,” Cohen said. “Being from outside the industry, he brings all new ideas and strategies.”

Cohen says his next move will be to hire new lab personnel within the next two to three months, and then focus on looking outside of the company for partnerships — whether they be co-developing or licensing partnership — with any scientific group that brings value.

“The best way to take this platform technology that can have so many products is to bring as many intelligent people under the tent as quickly as possible,” he said. “There are at least 20 institutions working with our technology, making advancements that are very interesting.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 11/04/2011 - 10:59 am.

    The real problem they face is a simple one. The basic technology can NOT be patented. Hence, they have to come up with something that CAN be patented or otherwise protected so they can charge fees to sell or license it (such as a proprietary chemical or similar item).

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