Inventor’s ouster leaves questions

Doris Taylor was quietly removed from her biomedical company in July.

Kyle Potter

University of Minnesota researcher Doris Taylor walks into her lab every morning with one mission: to change the world with her research.
Taylor, director of the UniversityâÄôs Center for Cardiovascular Repair, said that focus hasnâÄôt wavered since she was removed from the company built on her research.
It has been nine months since Taylor was quietly ousted from Miromatrix Medical Inc. Its board of directors voted to terminate her membership in July âÄî a decision supported by the University, a shareholder in the start-up company.
The University and Miromatrix board members are mum about what led to her dismissal. Board chairman Walter Sembrowich declined to comment, and Miromatrix CEO Robert Cohen did not return multiple interview requests Monday.
Taylor herself declined to comment on her relationship with Cohen and other board members.
In a Star Tribune article, Taylor said her questions regarding the companyâÄôs finances and direction âÄúwerenâÄôt well received.âÄù Hours after submitting those questions in writing at a July board meeting, she heard she had been voted out.
Taylor chose her words carefully as she relived that day in an interview with the Minnesota Daily.
âÄúI was disappointed that an institution that I value and that IâÄôve been asked to represent nationally and internationally didnâÄôt feel the same [about me],âÄù she said.
Since 2008, Taylor has been a poster child for the UniversityâÄôs research initiatives. She was launched into the national spotlight that year when she and her research team grew a ratâÄôs heart in a jar using stem cells.
After draining the cells from a dead ratâÄôs heart âÄî leaving behind what Taylor calls a heart âÄúscaffoldâÄù âÄî the team implanted cells from newborn rats back into the dead heart and coaxed it to eventually beat again for 40 days.
The University Office for Technology Commercialization signed an agreement to license TaylorâÄôs technique to Miromatrix in February 2010 in hopes of marketing a series of medical technology devices based on her research.
The technique may hold the key to generating whole human organs grown from a patientâÄôs own cells for transplant âÄî not just hearts, but livers, kidneys and lungs.
Five months after signing the contract, Taylor was squeezed out.
ItâÄôs unclear why.
As the UniversityâÄôs chief investment officer, Stuart Mason was responsible to vote on behalf of the University on whether to oust Taylor from the board.
Faced with that decision, Mason said he consulted a number of board members to determine what would be best for the future of the company.
With the power of the UniversityâÄôs 28.6 percent of MiromatrixâÄôs stock behind him, Mason voted in support of TaylorâÄôs removal.
The University released a statement on the dismissal Monday, but isnâÄôt granting interviews on the story.
âÄúThe technology has been successfully transferred out of the University, Miromatrix has replicated it, and the company is pursuing a viable business strategy to commercialize it,âÄù Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy said in the statement.
The decision to remove Taylor was made âÄúto ensure that the company continues to make progress and move the technology into the public domain as quickly as possible in order to benefit society,âÄù the statement said.
âÄúSure sounds to me like a common goal, so itâÄôs hard for me to understand why there would be a divergence of opinion,âÄù Taylor said in response to the UniversityâÄôs statement.
But Taylor prefers not to talk about what happened in July, and she remains committed to advancing her research.
She and her colleagues have drained the cells from 17 human hearts in Spain, where citizens must opt-out of organ donation, unlike the U.S.âÄô opt-in system.
âÄúIâÄôm not going to let non-science things get in the way of moving this technology forward,âÄù she said.