Beth Lindborg has a unique business/technical background and leadership experience. She previously served as vice president of strategy and, before that, vice president of operations at SynerFuse, Inc., where the company raised more than $7 million in angel funding and received IDE approval from the FDA for its first-in-human clinical trial. She also served as director of research and marketing at BRTI Life Sciences, where the company launched two products in the life science market.
Give us Sarcio’s elevator pitch. What does your company do?
Our goal is simple. It’s to give hope to people living with osteoarthritis through a groundbreaking, regenerative cell therapy that delays or reverses the course of this debilitating disease.
What led you to found Sarcio?
It was honestly just luck. Like many scientific discoveries such as penicillin, X-rays, and the sticky note, Sarcio’s cartilage cells were discovered by chance in the laboratory of Dr. Tim O’Brien in the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota. At the time we were researching a completely different area. Tim quickly recognized the cells as forming the cartilage that is found on the surface of your joints and breaks down in patients with osteoarthritis.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of people just in the United States who develop osteoarthritis every year. Some people think it just means your joints hurt. It is far more than that. It is a devastating disease that can result in people needing total joint replacement surgeries.
As a leader, did your role change during COVID-19?
Everyone’s lives have been impacted by the pandemic. For me as a business leader, the pandemic highlighted the importance of connecting with everyone who is part of our journey: our team, advisors, board director, investors and, above all, family and friends who support us every day. Has it been easy? No. But we have adapted and grown as a team, and I certainly have as a person and leader.
Did your company experience changes as a result of the pandemic?
The pandemic has certainly challenged us all. It has impacted our personal and professional lives, and, I believe, has given each one of us pause to reflect on what is truly important. At Sarcio, it has given us an opportunity to support each other and grow closer as a team, while deepening our commitment to help people suffering from osteoarthritis. Despite our challenges, we recognize that our team is more fortunate than most.
What are the big milestones coming in the next few years for Sarcio?
One of our major milestones will be testing our cartilage cells in non-clinical models of osteoarthritis. These studies will help us learn how our cells could be used as the basis for a new treatment for patients. Another milestone will be having our first meeting with the FDA, to receive feedback on our proposed development plans. Feedback from the FDA is really important in helping us as we are putting together a plan to get our treatment to patients.
How do you balance leading a startup with your everyday life?
I love my work and I love my family and friends. Sometimes it’s hard to make time for everything that needs to be done at work and find time to be with other people who are important in my life. For me, it’s all about the choices I make, and I try each day to make the best choices I can for myself, my family and my team.
What’s one thing people get wrong about startup life?
A lot of people think leading or being in a startup is glamorous. They really do! The simple fact of the matter is startups are hard work, with limited resources where everyone has to be chief cook and bottle-washer, and there is little room for error. Being in a startup means working very long hours all week, little time away for vacations and no real financial security. Glamorous is the last word that should come to mind for anyone thinking about being part of a startup. Exciting, fulfilling and exhausting would be better!
What is the best advice you have received in your career? The worst?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to trust my instincts. It’s important to gather all the information to make a good decision, but the moment you stop trusting your gut is when things will start to fall apart. The worst advice was to settle for something “safe.” I learned that if you settle for something that doesn’t bring you joy, your work won’t be your best and everyone, including you, will be frustrated.
What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?
I’ve realized that if you can show up as you are, if you have an awareness of your life, your situations, how you are feeling, and if you can connect with people, then everything will fall into place. That’s my goal for every day. The upcoming year is no different.
How do you relax/decompress?
Mostly by spending time with my family and friends. I love singing songs with my daughter in the car, watching TV (OK, falling asleep) on the couch with my husband, and shopping for a “new top” with my mom. I’m fortunate to have friends that know when I need a break and invite me out for adventures like cross-country skiing in the park and eating delicious take out.
What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community?
In 2006 the Medical Alley Association (then called Life Science Alley) was holding an invite-only cocktail hour the evening before their big conference. I had just graduated and was looking for a job – so I snuck into the event, hoping to find a way into the conference the next day. I was quickly found out, and introduced to the CEO at that time, Don Gerhardt. When I admitted my offense, he looked me in the eye and said, “I like you, you have guts!” He then arranged for me to attend the conference for free over the next few days, which led to new opportunities and life-long connections. To this day, the Medical Alley Association holds the same values and commitment to supporting the Healthcare Ecosystem, including startups like ours who need access to critical resources and services to be successful.