Expert Support

We use a team approach to support approved Catalyst Program firms.  The team includes MNSBIR, Inc. along with other professionals to support firms with their technical proposals, commercialization plans, budgets and much more. This support is primarily geared toward Phase I awardees transitioning to Phase II and beyond.  The key benefits include:

  • Access to Specialized Skills: Independent contractors often have niche skills or expertise that can complement our team’s capabilities, allowing us to offer a broader range of services to our clients.
  • Flexibility: Engaging independent contractors gives us the flexibility to scale our resources up or down based on project demand. We can bring in additional support when needed.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Engaging with independent contractors is cost-effective for us extending our impact across many firms.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Independent contractors also bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the table, which can lead to innovative problem-solving and better outcomes for our clients.
  • Anja Metzger, PhD has 30 years of medical device experience with the most recent 20 years focused on cardiovascular medical devices and obtaining over 20MM dollars in non-diluted small business grant funding from the NIH and DoD SBIR and CDMRP programs to explore innovative technologies and bring them to market. She has written and served as PI or a co-investigator in over 30 Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 2+ grant applications to support product development, pre-clinical and clinical trials with an 80% original submission success rate. In addition to her experience in cardiovascular medical devices she has assisted several companies focused on devices for orthopedics, cancer, and other disease states. In 2012, during her tenure at Advanced Circulatory Systems, she received the SBA’s SBIR Tibbets award and was recognized as being in the top 25 NIH Grant Recipients in 2013.  She has extensive knowledge of pre-clinical, clinical, and product development strategies, the ability to bring theory into practice, and is recognized as a named inventor on over 30 U.S. patent applications. Work with multiple firms including Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, and several start-up medical device companies has provided Anja an in-depth understanding of clinical, regulatory and quality aspects of the medical device business including risk assessment, the development of requirements and product specifications, design assurance, and pre-clinical and clinical design and execution. Anja has a Biomedical Engineering PhD from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the College of St. Catherine. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Emergency Medicine Department and is an author of over 40 publications. In her role as Founder and CEO of Innovative MN Medical Solutions, she provides consulting services for non-dilutive funding opportunities, focusing on NIH and DoD SBIR/STTR grant proposals for novel medical device technologies. Services include identification of specific grant opportunities, professional review and critique of proposals and applications, proposal editing, proposal writing and submission, pre-clinical and clinical study design/procurement assistance, proposal brainstorming and research strategy outline, and complete proposal preparation.

  • Jim Stice, currently a principal with MedCelleration, a Minnesota consulting firm providing medical device IP scouting, project assessment and management services, including non-dilutive SBIR funding assistance with preparation of grant submissions, which involves advising multiple medical device customers on NIH SBIR Phase I and II strategy, IP scouting focused on medical device specialties identifying and assessing inventions fitting a search profile. Management services cover SBIR grant submissions and award execution. Over the last year, MedCelleration clients have obtained a total of $12M in NIH SBIR/STTR awards.

    Prior to MedCelleration, Jim led Twin Star Medical, a medical device company providing drug delivery and acute trauma products to researchers and physicians that pioneered the use of porous device platform for multiple indications with non-dilutive funding, leveraging private equity ten times with over $20 million in Federal R&D grants during 10 years, securing four 510K clearances and two IDE approvals, implementing four IRB approved pilot clinical studies, and obtained ten patents for porous medical device platform. During his career, Jim also helped launch other medical device and healthcare startups as founder and/or Board member in addition to serving as Chairman of Medical Alley.

  • Tamara Bratland expertise is commercializing medical devices globally.  She works with medical device startups on creating strong strategies, executable marketing plans, relevant value propositions with a path to product commercialization.  Currently, she is working with numerous start-up companies as consultant, founder, marketing leader or mentor, defining product concepts and commercialization approaches.  Recent projects have been with the University of Minnesota, Technology Commercialization Office, and the National Institute of Health, Technical and Business Assistance programs. She brings over 30 years of experience in medical devices and high tech, with leadership roles in marketing and product development at Medtronic and Honeywell.  She has an MBA and Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, is a certified Project Management Professional and holds 7 US Patents.

  • Susan Henken-Thielen is a senior level product and marketing expert with 40 years of executive experience in a range of industries including educational and medical technology and devices, consumer goods, fitness, and higher education.  Her career has focused on developing and introducing innovative, impactful and beneficial products, services and businesses that uniquely meet the needs of target customers.  As the president of a product launch and marketing consulting business, she provides strategic assistance to entrepreneurial ventures, mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions, providing marketing research insights, product optimization, market development and enhancement strategies, and marketing plans that launch new and grow existing businesses.

    Previous experience includes leading product strategy, product development and management initiatives for Collegis Education, a higher education consulting company. Prior to joining Collegis Education, she led the product, marketing and project management for the development and implementation of the online Competency-Based Learning initiative at Rasmussen University. As an Adjunct Professor for Rasmussen University, she taught marketing, sales and consumer behavior classes.  Serving as Brand Director on several new ventures at Pearsom Vue, she led product launches and marketing strategies for new higher education assessment software businesses globally, marketed to businesses and consumers, establishing the UExcel® brand as one of the leaders in the competency-based higher education assessment industry. Susan has also held Marketing and Product Management leadership positions at the US subsidiary of Irish medical device company Bio-Medical Research, Ltd., Compex Technologies, and Cigna Behavioral Care.

    Susan is an active volunteer, currently serving as Vice President on the Board of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, an advocacy group focused on protecting Minnesota waters from pollution, over-development and Aquatic Invasive Species. She also served for 7 years on the select Grinnell College Alumni Council, an alumni leadership organization, where she held the role of President.  Susan earned her Master of Management degree at the Kellogg School, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, with concentrations in Marketing, Strategy, and Industrial Relations. She graduated from Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA with a B.A. in Psychology, with highest honors, and earned membership in the Grinnell and Mortar Board Honor Societies and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2019, she was honored with a Grinnell College Alumni Award for accomplishments and contributions in her career, community and to the College.

  • Intercepting Horizons provides research and advice to boards and C-suites on sustainable profitable growth strategies that encompass organic expansion and M&A with a specific focus on perceived value enhancement. With a deep understanding of the impact of emerging and converging technologies, we help organizations stay ahead of the curve and succeed in rapidly changing markets.

    Our unique value proposition lies in advising companies and organizations on the direction and timing of strategic decisions, recognizing that intercepting convergences on the horizon is key to capturing opportunities. From start-ups to global mid-caps, we leverage years of board, C-suite, and entrepreneurial experience to assist our clients in navigating change.


  • Diane Rucker is an angel investor and an active mentor in Minnesota’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. She recently stepped down as the Executive Director of University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL), a business incubator for early stage ventures in biotechnology, healthcare, medical health, and life sciences. Diane has an Executive MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and served as a mentor and judge for the MIT 100K competition. She also has an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an SB in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her recent experience includes a collaboration with MIT’s Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and broad – based business and ecosystem experience around the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She served as the VP of Client Services for Carrot Health, a startup in healthcare analytics (acquired by UniteUs), and held leadership roles with Seagate and General Motors.

    Diane serves on several boards, including the gener8tor gBETA Advisory Board. Diane invests in seed-stage funds with a focus on Minnesota and Midwest startups and on underrepresented founders, She is an LP in Groove Capital, Tundra Ventures, Bread and Butter Ventures, gener8tor, and Great North Ventures. She and her husband, Derek, live in Apple Valley, Minnesota, with their three (awesome) daughters.

  • Sasmita Tripathy works as a Program Manager of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Macalester College where she designs, implements, coordinates and manages various programs to help students in their entrepreneurship journey. She is a mentor for the Innovation Scholars Program and steering committee member of CONNECT, an entrepreneur focused group meant to create increased entrepreneurship opportunities in the STEM field. Sasmita is passionate about commercializing ideas/innovations to solve the next big problems in the world. Prior to joining Macalester, she helped startups and researchers on Customer Discovery, Market Research and SBIR/STTR grant writing. She is an instructor at Great Lakes I-Corps Hub  and MIN-Corps, where she teaches contents such as Product-Market Fit, Customer Discovery, Market Assessment and Commercialization Pathways by following Lean Launchpad methodology. Additionally, she taught undergraduate students at the Department of Biology of University of St Thomas. She holds a PhD from Oregon State University, where her doctoral dissertation was focused on molecular control of type 2 diabetes and fatty liver diseases. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, hiking and gardening.

  • Carla Pavone is the principal of Isles Growth Initiative, a consultancy focusing on science and engineering innovation and entrepreneurship and is also a Lecturer in Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. She was previously the Associate Director of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, co-PI of the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Great Lakes Region Hub and founding Program Director of the Minnesota Innovation Corps (MIN-Corps). During her 9-year tenure, MIN-Corps delivered lean startup programs to thousands of researchers, sent 35 teams to national NSF I-Corps Teams cohorts, and assisted 47 startups that raised over $52 million in commercialization grants and/or equity funding. Dr. Pavone is currently on the advisory boards of Interjad (clinical research training software), TFWireless (NASA Jet Propulsion Labs spinoff, NSF SBIR Phase I and II recipient), and the Minnesota SBA Women’s Business Center. Prior to becoming an academic, Dr. Pavone had two careers: in magazine and software publishing (primarily at start-ups) and in financial services (internal corporate start-ups and turnarounds). She has a BA in biology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a PhD in business administration from the University of Minnesota.

  • Kyle Nelson is an expert in the strategy, tactics, mechanics, and rigor needed to coordinate, win, and execute competitive Federal contracts and grants. Kyle served in business development roles for over 20 years, first at Honeywell’s global research lab and then at Adventium Labs, an R&D company that he helped to start in 2002 and co-owned and led as CEO from late 2010 until it was acquired in 2022. Kyle was responsible for securing competitive government grants and contracts to start, self-fund, and establish Adventium as a nationally known R&D firm. The SBIR/STTR program served an important role in Adventium’s success. Kyle led successful SBIR/STTR proposal efforts that secured contracts from nearly every agency that participates in the SBIR/STTR program, including Air Force, Army, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Navy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institutes of Health, and National Science Foundation (NSF).  In addition to win rates well above the published national averages, he also led Adventium to secure multiple Phase III SBIRs, including two Phase III SBIR task order agreements each with ceilings over $23M. Prior to Adventium Labs, Kyle served in business development and technical roles in aerospace research at Honeywell Labs. Kyle served as a proposal review panelist for several NSF programs, authored numerous publications, and holds five patents. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics from Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO and a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

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