Can Miromatrix "regenerate" Minnesota's medical industry?

January 22, 2010 by MedCity News

An exclusive interview with Dr. Doris Taylor and Miromatrix CEO Rob Cohen.

By Thomas Lee

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota– Miromatrix Inc. has one official employee, zero money, and nothing yet to develop, never mind sell. But make no mistake: Everyone wants a piece of it.

"The buzz around town is that this is hot technology," said Mark Kroll, a medical device investor and a former top executive at St. Jude Medical Inc."All the right people are excited about this."

Miromatrix is close to signing a licensing agreement with the University of Minnesota to commercialize the regenerative tissue work of Dr. Doris Taylor. Two years ago, the star university scientist drew international attention for successfully growing — and keeping alive — a beating rat's heart in jar. Taylor's work fueled hopes that scientists can one day grow replacement organs for patients who would typically wait for transplants.

"This is the future," said Miromatrix CEO Robert Cohen.

Both Cohen and Taylor sat down with MedCity News for their first interviews since the university spun out the company in December. (Miromatrix takes its name from Taylor's favorite artist, Joan Miro i Ferra, a Spanish Surrealist painter and sculptor.)

"The prospect of doing something with Dr. Taylor was more exciting than anything I've ever seen," said Cohen, a veteran medical device and pharmaceutical executive. "It's a technology that everyone at the table knows can do great things."

Said Taylor: "Certainly, my dream is to make a difference and we can't do that unless we move the technology to products."

It's difficult to overstate Miromatrix's importance to Minnesota. If successful, some say the company could spark a biotechnology boom in Minnesota the same way Earl Baaken's home-made pacemaker forty-plus years ago launched the state's dominance in implantable heart devices, a mighty comparison Taylor and university and industry officials do little to dispel.