Beth Lindborg joined the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute as an assistant scientist in 2007 because she wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives and was excited about the growing promise of the regenerative medicine field. As a scientist in Dr. Tim O’Brien’s laboratory, Lindborg worked on research in diabetes, stem cell generation and differentiation, biomaterials, and ultimately generation of hyaline cartilage. Working in the Stem Cell Institute allowed her to interact with other researchers in the field, share ideas and resources, and advance her research.
Now, as CEO of Sarcio, an early-stage UMN startup that launched in 2018, Lindborg and her team are developing novel treatments for osteoarthritis, a painful joint condition that affects over 300 million people worldwide.
The research team, led by Tim O’Brien, professor and division head, Comparative Pathology, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, discovered that they could generate hyaline cartilage cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
This groundbreaking technology has the potential to transform the lives of patients suffering from osteoarthritis by restoring, regenerating, and repairing the cartilage in degenerated joints and prevent or delay the need for joint replacement surgery. “Patients are often forced to decide between living in pain and undergoing a joint replacement surgery that only lasts 15-20 years. We felt excited and obligated to progress the research so that we can help patients and address a major unmet need in the orthopedic space,” Lindborg says.
Sarcio is continuing development work and is raising capital to gather strong proof of principal animal data that will be critical for pre-IND studies and ultimately clinical trials. Lindborg and O’Brien and the Sarcio team used Tech Comm’s Discovery Launchpad program and worked with Tech Comm staff members on patents, market research, and messaging for investment pitches. Lindborg particularly recommends the MIN-Corps value proposition workshops offered by Carla Pavone, associate director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management.
“As scientists coming out of academia—and especially as women—it’s easy to get caught in the trap of feeling like you have to plan everything out on your own to prove yourself so that people will want to join your team,” says Lindborg. “The most important thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and business leader is that you don’t have to have a bulletproof business plan to build a great team. You build your team based on your vision and on the promise of the technology, and together you build the plan. It’s a much better approach.”
Lindborg has relied on a team to help advance the core technology, starting with Tech Comm’s assistance with patents to partnering with UMN orthopedic surgeon and the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Marc Tompkins, on development and identifying the ideal patient populations for Sarcio’s cartilage cell therapy. She used the Regents Scholarship to earn an MBA from the Carlson School of Management and now counts some of her contacts from the Medical Industry Leadership Institute (MILI) program among her most valuable mentors.
Lindborg encourages her fellow researchers to contact Tech Comm early in the research and innovation process so that they can connect with mentors who can serve as an extended part of the team.
“We have a ways to go before reaching patients, but I’m very optimistic,” says Lindborg. To learn more about Sarcio, contact Lindborg at firstname.lastname@example.org.