Alumni achievement: Dr. Jeff Ross

Jeff Ross is CEO of Miromatrix, a Minnesota-based biotechnology company dedicated to the bioengineering of whole organs. Dr. Ross received both his MS in Biomedical Engineering and PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Minnesota.

He held various positions at Guidant, Athersys, and SurModics for the development and commercialization of numerous bio-based therapies. At Miromatrix, Dr. Ross has led the commercialization of perfusion decellularization, from early research through good manufacturing practices (GMP) manufacturing and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, resulting in the launch of Miromatrix’s first products.

He has over 30 published and issued patents along with leading publications in Nature and the Journal of Clinical Investigation

How did your UMN BME MS degree prepare you for your career? 

I’ve always been driven by the desire to understand how the human body works at the cellular level and how that knowledge can be used to develop new therapies targeted at curing diseases. When I discovered Biomedical Engineering, I realized my desire could become a reality.

The technical training of the BME program was superior, but it was the introduction to tissue engineering and translational research that equipped me with the appropriate tools to pursue my passion and enter this industry. 

What led you to Miromatrix after your PhD? 

My PhD work was based on functional differentiation of stem cells for tissue engineering applications. It was a natural transition to Miromatrix, where we focus on engineering transplantable organs utilizing the decellularization of whole organs to provide the ultimate scaffold.

Before joining the Miromatrix team, I had just been given a promotion at a different company and had a great position there. When Miromatrix called, I was excited for the opportunity to change medicine and help thousands of patients by eliminating the organ transplant waiting list. So, I jumped at the chance. 

What has been the best part of being CEO? 

Honestly, this is tough to answer! I have always enjoyed building things, from mechanical to biologics. As a CEO, it is just as important to build a great team that can tackle the many challenges of doing what has never been done before, with the ultimate reward of helping others.

There are days when I miss the bench—seeing the patterns in the data and making the key connections that move everything forward. But it is just as rewarding to steer the ship. 

What advice do you have for the current UMN BME students? 

Here are some pieces of advice that have always helped me. First, find what you get excited about and follow your passion (mine has been creating therapies to help others).

Second, get into the lab and do research or find an internship (whichever you like). This may sound ironic, but try to avoid “over” engineering systems and solutions. I have seen many projects/people fail because of this pitfall.

Lastly, continue to invest in yourself and your education. Getting a BME degree opens the door to all sorts of opportunities.