We are dedicated and experienced team focused on delivering unique business and technical assistance to our clients. Our combined expertise in federal R&D programs (SBIR/STTR), federal acquisition, government and commercial marketing, government cost accounting, government grant and contract administration, and commercialization assistance is invaluable for your technology development and commercialization pathway.
Pat Dillon, CDR, USN (Ret), MBA, Founder and President
Pat Dillon is the Founder and President of MNSBIR, Inc., a private, non-profit organization to support startups and small businesses to research, develop and commercialize technologies into novel products and services for domestic and global markets by leveraging federal research and development investments. Dillon has nearly 45 years of experience in government, industry, non-profit and academic organizations. Dillon is a leader in Minnesota’s innovation, investment, and commercialization ecosystem with nearly 30 years of knowledge, experience and relationships in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
Dillon is a member of the University of Minnesota (U of M), Technology Commercialization, Business Advisory Group; the Chair of the Advisory Board for the U of M, Technological Leadership Institute; a mentor for the Carlson School of Management, STARTUP Course; a frequent contributor to MN-REACH and MIN-CORPS (I-Corps Programs); a former MN-CUP Life Sciences Semi-Finalist Committee Member; a former speaker and moderator at the U of M Medical Devices Conference, Government Funding for Startups; and a frequent speaker at Twin Cities Startup Week, and taught a graduate course at the Mayo Clinic, Office of Entrepreneurship.
A staunch advocate of the SBIR/STTR programs, Dillon has tirelessly led the startup of MNSBIR in 2014 while at MEDA, then transitioning to Minnesota Technology Association (formerly the Minnesota High Technology Association) in 2016. Previously, Dillon served as the Northwest Regional Director for the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network from 2005-2013, a key initiative under Governor’s Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan. From 1992-2004, Dillon served in multiple roles at Minnesota Project Innovation, Inc. that culminated into the role of Executive Director in 2004. MPI, Inc. had a successful track record for 20 years before state budget challenges impacted its funding sources.
Dillon is a 1999 recipient of the prestigious Small Business Administration’s Tibbetts Award: a national award for excellence in the SBIR/STTR Programs. Pat is also a 2001 recipient of the City Business’ 25 Most Innovative Woman Award (now the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal). Pat has served as a commercialization plan reviewer for the National Science Foundation (twice) and the United States Department of Agriculture (multiple times) and was the principal investigator of an Office of Naval Research contract for SBIR outreach in a five-state region for the first-ever SWIFT Tour (SBIR/STTR Where Innovation Focuses on Technology) (now called SBIR Road Tours).
Dillon is a retired United States Navy Commander with 40 years of service both active and reserve, and in both aviation and intelligence communities. Pat is a combat veteran having served 10 months in Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Dillon is a proud recipient of the Vietnam Era GI Bill earning an MBA and BS in Business Administration from Winona State University, Winona, MN.
Taunia Gorka, MA, VP Finance and Administration (Independent Contractor)
Taunia Gorka is a financial consultant engaged by MNSBIR, Inc. to help assist and transition the organization to continue to meet the needs of the SBIR/STTR awardees by using her 30-plus years of experience in accounting, human resources, and business analysis. Taunia helps for-profit and non-profit organizations set up financial management systems and has extensive experience with Uniform Guidance and managing federal and state grants. Taunia graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Science in Accountancy and is an inductee of Omicron Delta Epsilon (international honor society in economics) and Delta Mu Delta (international honor society in business). Taunia has held management positions in the arts, social services, engineering, wealth management, and economic development and now focuses exclusively on small emerging businesses.
Susan Henken, MBA, VP Marketing and Communications (Independent Contractor)
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.
Laura Goldknopf, AA, Program Support (Independent Contractor)
Laura has a broad background between media, service and administration, and offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of the current SBIR/STTR atmosphere.
Christine Hehre Tierney, MBA, Junebird Creative (Independent Contractor)
Running a small business is hard. But finding a partner to help you develop and execute a killer marketing strategy shouldn’t be. If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have a background in marketing, it is hard to know what you should be doing to promote your business, let alone grow it. I started junebird creative because I can’t stomach watching good companies throw away marketing dollars on well-intentioned marketing before spending the time developing their brand identity.
I love helping small and start-up businesses develop a clear understanding of who they are so they can effectively connect with their customers. When you’re intentional about the content you put into the world, you’ll be proud of your brand. And when you’re proud of your brand, your business will thrive.
With 15 years of digital marketing experience, an MBA from St. Thomas University and a plethora of cross-industry experience, I’m confident that I can help you develop the killer marketing strategy that will connect with your customers and make them wish they’d found you sooner.
Margaret Owen Thorpe, Venture Catalyst (Client Consultant)
Margaret Owen Thorpe created Venture Catalyst in 1990 to work with companies in need of market-based business development strategies. She specializes in work with companies pursuing new technologies through SBIR/STTR grants, as well as other funding sources. She has worked with several successful Minnesota SBIR applicants on both Phase I and Phase II submissions. She has also been a Professional Business Consultant with the Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas since 1995.
Previously, she was part of the original market development team of United HealthCare Corporation that took it from $30,000,000 to over $400,000,000 in sales in three years. Earlier, she held executive positions with the State of Wisconsin and Ramsey County. She speaks fluent bureaucrat.
She was a regular columnist for Ventures magazine and has written over three dozen published articles on business and historical topics. In her spare time, she herds cats and hunts ancestors.
She holds a B.A., University of Southern California (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and an M.A., University of Wisconsin (Woodrow Wilson Fellow).
Anja Metzger, PhD, Innovative Minnesota Medical Solutions (Client Consultant)
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, MedCellerations (Client Consultant)
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.
Board of Directors
Michael Wright, Intercepting Horizons, Treasurer
Mr. Wright is a founding partner of Intercepting Horizons. As an experienced senior high-technology executive and strategist at scale, he has had the opportunity to pervade most industries and most cultures of the developed world. His experience includes both line and staff and all management levels from product to operational to c-suite, CEO, and boards. He has expertise in leadership, operations, and strategy, as well as in governance and organizational architecture.
Over the years, he has raised millions for startups and publicly traded entities and has been entrusted with the assets of nascent to large-cap technology companies. He has advised a number of the largest semiconductor equipment and materials companies in the world and led startups from his own (WWK.com) to assisting NASDAQ /Dow Jones level enterprises including GSX, August, and Rudolph Technologies (AUGT/RTEC) along with the formation and IPO of Entegris, Inc. (ENTG).
His career has been at the intersection of business, government, and academia in multiple venues, from DARPA/SEMATECH to ITRI and Fraunhofer. He enjoys innovating at the leading edges of technology from cleanrooms, filtration, and instrumentation to lithography, test and commercializing cost of ownership and capacity modeling software, and along the way developing new products, new entities, new markets, and new value propositions. He has chaired several industry organizations including: (SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS)), CONTEX, and Minnesota High Tech Association, and participated in high-level consortia, teaching both master’s degree level academic and industry-specific executive courses.
He has two patents in micro-fluidics, co-designed and developed industry-changing products, dozens of mergers and acquisitions, written over 40 articles on technology and business, and is the author of ‘The New Business Normal’ and the recently released ‘The Exponential Era’.
Patrice Kloss, JD, Fox Rothschild, Secretary
Patrice is Co-Chair of Fox Rothschild’s national Medical Technology practice group and serves as Administrative Partner for the Corporate Department in Minneapolis.
She advises medical technology companies, other emerging businesses, and venture capital and strategic investors in a broad range of commercial and financing matters, including: venture capital financings; private placements; mergers and acquisitions; venture debt and credit facilities; and securities compliance.
Patrice also guides lenders in commercial loan transactions and advises clients on equity financing structures and clinical trial agreements. She frequently counsel’s boards of directors on fiduciary duties and corporate governance obligations. Patrice earned her Juris Doctorate (magna cum laude, 1996) and Bachelors of Art degrees from the University of Minnesota. Patrice also contributes a Board of Director for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Board of Directors (2018-present) and Excelen, Center for Bone & Joint Research (2010-present).
Phil Goldman, BS, MS, JD, Principal, Seque IP
Phil is currently the founder and principal of Segue IP, LLC, where he applies the best practices of his experience as both in-house and outside counsel to the intellectual property law needs of clients ranging from corporations to entrepreneurs and pro bono clients. Key aspects of his practice have involved the representation of SBIR-funded clients, and the technology transfer skills needed to support both collaboration and effective commercialization efforts.
Since he no longer represents clients before the US Patent and Trademark Office, he can instead focus his efforts on working with clients to address the various aspects of IP law that surround and support their IP portfolios. This includes helping to build an appropriate IP culture, developing strategies for cost-effective IP protection, and providing counsel on transactional matters – all in a manner designed to survive scrutiny in the course of eventual due diligence by potential licensees.
While working as a patent attorney for 3M Company, as their first attorney with a background in the biological sciences, he was responsible for all aspects of intellectual property law and client counseling for nearly a dozen different business units having a particular focus on “bio” related activities. It was at 3M that Phil first became involved in the IP aspects of Government contracting – building a foundation that he would later build on while in private practice, working with SBIR-funded clients, beginning with Minnesota’s then leader in that regard – Surmodics (then Bio-Metric Systems, and in turn, BSI).
Phil has been involved in an array of professional activities and affiliations over the years, including having served as President and current Board member of the Minnesota Intellectual Property Law Association, as well as a founding Board member of the Joint Degree Program at the University of Minnesota Law School. He has been a frequent speaker and teacher on related subjects, including to have created and taught a course on Technology Transfer at Hamline University School of Law, and teaching the IP fundamentals involved in the SBIR process to members of Pat Dillon’s SBIR cohort companies over the years.
He has also been active in pro bono efforts throughout his career, including having served as 3M’s Pro Bono Coordinator working with the Southern Minnesota Legal Services (SMRLS), then as a member of Fredrikson & Byron’s Pro Bono Committee, and currently for LegalCorps in Minneapolis, where he has served on the Inventors’ Assistance Program since its inception.
Phil earned his JD degree at William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota, attending evening school while working full time in 3M’s Office of Intellectual Property Counsel – bringing to bear his MS degree in Microbiology from Colorado State University, and in turn, his BS degree in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, as well as his intervening years at the research bench, including at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Center, the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.
John Hobday, MA, CEO, Healthcare Interactive, Inc.
Mr. Hobday is the CEO and Founder of HealthCare Interactive, an edtech company headquartered in Minneapolis and dedicated to providing the highest quality caregiver training for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other brain disorders. Mr. Hobday is an educational and instructional design expert, software developer, and dementia researcher.
He is the creator and developer of the CARES® online training, certification, and credentialing programs, all of which incorporate the trademarked CARES 5-step method to dementia care.
CARES programs are award winning, widely published in academic literature, and recognized by organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, American Health Care Association, National Center for Assisted Living, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In addition, Mr. Hobday has collaborated directly with nationally known Alzheimer’s and dementia researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association, Duke University, Emory University, Michigan State University, NYU School of Medicine, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of South Florida, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and National Institutes of Health.
Since founding HCI in 1997, Mr. Hobday has also felt the impact of dementia personally. Both of his grandmothers and his aunt have passed away with complications from Alzheimer’s disease. This has resulted in a personal commitment to improve the quality of dementia care for both familes and professional caregivers around the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Hobday earned a B.A. Quantitative Methods/Computer Science, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN (1988), a B.A. Spanish, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN (1988), M.A. Education, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN (1988), and a Ph.D. Business Management, Capella University, Minneapolis, MN (all coursework compete).
Mary MacCarthy, MBA, University of Minnesota
Ms. MacCarthy is a strategic and execution-oriented leader building business via thoughtful, creative strategy and marketing. She manages business development programs for startups-based University of Minnesota intellectual property in Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center. She also manages the University’s seed fund program Discovery Capital and the Business Advisory Group.
Mary previously launched and bootstrapped product and service startups. In industry, she commercialized a dozen new multi-million-dollar revenue products and has P&L management experience. She has managed large teams up to 32 people. Prior to joining the Venture Center in 2018, Mary worked in the medical device and high-tech industries at Medtronic, Cardiovascular Systems Inc, Imation and 3M. As a consultant, client companies have included Medtronic, 3M, Neurologica, and Smith’s Medical.
Mary is active in the community serving on for profit, non-profit and local government boards including founding Chair of the Board of RoundtableRx and UMN Board of Directors observer for Anatomic Inc. She earned an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.
Marie Johnson, PhD, CEO, Loon MD
Dr. Johnson has spent the last 20 years in cardiovascular, orthopedic, and diagnostic medical device settings, serving in senior leadership positions. Her vision for the AUM Cardiovascular noninvasive, fast and affordable diagnostic device, CADence, landed her on the “Most Creative People in Business” list by Fast Company magazine in 2015 as well, as the TEDx talk “Listening to her Heart.”
Before becoming CEO of AUM, Dr. Johnson designed and launched the University of Minnesota Medical Devices Innovation Post-doctoral Fellowship program for M.D., Ph.D., J.D., and MBAs, modeled after the Stanford Biodesign program where Johnson was a fellow. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from General Motors Institute, M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. She completed three post-doctoral fellowships: 3M Company, Politecnico in Turin, Italy, and Stanford University. She is from Preble County, Ohio, and, for 12 years and like three family generations before, worked for General Motors. She holds patents and has patents pending in cardiology, orthopedics, obstetrics, apparel, pulmonology, food science, and stroke. She serves on the board of TYLT Labs and several non-profit and social enterprises in the Twin Cities. She holds an adjunct professorship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. In 2020, she was awarded the “Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award” from Kettering University. She is a passionate global evangelist for proactive and engaged health.