Pawlenty signs on to board of company with University ties

Miromax Medical Inc., a company established through University of Minnesota research, has elected Pawlenty to the Board of Directors.

by Kaitlin Walker

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been elected to the Board of Directors for Miromatrix Medical Inc. âÄî a company established through University of Minnesota research.

Dr. Doris Taylor, a professor at the University who successfully grew a rat heart in her laboratory, signed a contract to commercialize her breakthrough technique in 2010, forming Miromatrix. But only five months after she signed the contract, Taylor was ousted from the board. Robert Cohen currently resides as president and CEO.

The University has a 28.6 percent share in the company, which continues to use TaylorâÄôs technique to develop its products.

âÄúI am extremely excited to join the board of a company that has the potential to improve human health in an historic way within its reach,âÄù Pawlenty said in the release.

Miromatrix is the second board Pawlenty has joined since dropping out of the presidential race in August.

RedPrairie Corporation, a commercial service provider, also  elected Pawlenty to its board.

Larry Jacobs, a professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, speculated that, for Pawlenty, joining a board of directors is not political, but a way to get a steady salary.

âÄúGovernor Pawlenty is looking for ways to support himself financially,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúHeâÄôs been in government for his adult career, and heâÄôs looking for other opportunities.âÄù

With a small startup company like Miromatrix, the salary might be very small as the company might not have the means to pay its board well, said Daniel Forbes, an associate professor at the Carlson School of Management.

But Forbes said Pawlenty could be given stock in the company or the opportunity to receive stock at a discounted rate. PawlentyâÄôs reputation also stands to benefit from his new position, Forbes said.

âÄúIt shows that he is plugged into the business community, that he understands business,âÄù Forbes said. âÄúHeâÄôs involved, in this case, with what is widely thought to be a pretty important domain of business âÄî medical technology. ItâÄôs stuff thatâÄôs clearly going to have beneficial social impacts.âÄù

Pawlenty isnâÄôt the only one who benefits from the deal. Forbes said a companyâÄôs board is often made up of an array of people with connections to resources that the company may someday need.

Boards will usually contain an ex-banker to connect to the financial community, or, in the case of Disney, the editor of the largest U.S. Spanish-language newspaper to connect to the Hispanic community.

âÄúTheyâÄôre essentially hiring [PawlentyâÄôs] rolodex,âÄù Forbes said.

Pawlenty, who will also serve as an advisor for the board, likely has political connections to the Food and Drug Administration, or to people who have gone through the FDA process, Forbes said, which will be vital to a company producing medical technology.

âÄúWhen it comes to commercializing that technology thereâÄôs going to be some FDA oversight,âÄù Forbes said. âÄúThe company has to interface with the government, in short, to sell its product and to run its business. Someone who knows the geography of government well can be really useful when it comes to advising a company.âÄù

Miromatrix will soon move to Glencoe, Minn., according to the press release, where it will join an industrial park in a new laboratory built to the companyâÄôs specifications.

Cohen said in the press release that he is âÄúthrilledâÄù to have Pawlenty on the board.

âÄúWe look forward to his advice and counsel as we pursue commercial products and strategic relationships with our game-changing technology,âÄù Cohen said.