Rochester’s Geneticure Sees Growth and Opportunity

Scott Snyder
Eric Snyder

Founded by Rochester brothers Scott and Eric Snyder in 2014, Geneticure is a precision medicine startup aimed at reducing trial and error for treatment of hypertension patients.

Geneticure’s technology examines specific segments of patient DNA taken from a mouth swab to determine which medications will be most effective for that patient.

“Geneticure’s premise is built on the fact that we think large diseases and dangerous diseases can be better treated by using genetics to guide medicine and therapy,” said Geneticure CEO Scott Snyder. “There are clues in your DNA that will predict how you will respond to certain medications and therapies.”

Since the launch of the business over four years ago, Geneticure has now grown to a team of twelve, split between scientific and business development leads. While their focus remains on hypertension, the startup has additional products for different diseases in their development pipeline. Snyder said the business has been intentionally quiet for the past few years while validating their original hypertension product through clinical trial work. Now, Geneticure is gearing up to commercialize their solution to reduce trial and error for treatment of hypertension patients.

“We spent four years building evidence and so we are proud of what we’ve built. Now we want to tell people about it,” explained Snyder.

As companies like Geneticure launch and grow in Rochester, there are more opportunities to access local capital. Geneticure has secured investment support from the Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. economic development fund and from the Southeast Minnesota Angel Fund.

While Geneticure’s team is spread all over the country, they have a large presence in both the Twin Cities and Rochester. The business began their journey in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator. After graduating from that space, they moved to a new location in “The Vault” above Grand Rounds Brew Pub in Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square subdistrict.

Snyder said Rochester has a lot of benefits of a bigger city but is easy to navigate.  And most exciting for Snyder and Geneticure is the growing entrepreneurship and “diversity of thought and people.”

One Discovery Square Aims to Foster Innovation

Finance & Commerce – by William Morris

Even in a digital era, Rochester and Mayo Clinic leaders think the best way to foster innovation, collaboration and new discoveries is to put people next to each other, face-to-face.

That’s the vision behind Golden Valley-based Mortenson’s One Discovery Square, a 90,000-square-foot biomedical sciences building in downtown Rochester that next month will welcome its first tenant, medical software company Epic. The $35 million project is one of the early cornerstones of the Destination Medical Center redevelopment initiative, which seeks to attract $5.5 billion in new development around Mayo Clinic over 20 years.

During a preview tour of the building Wednesday, officials touted a design aimed to boost collaboration, from an open lobby area that can double as a lecture theater to conversation niches and “living room” areas, some with whiteboards and other tools, scattered around the four-story building. Collaboration also was at the core of how officials marketed the building, Destination Medical Center executive director Lisa Clarke said.

“We will be bringing companies to this community that have never seen Rochester before,” she said.

Collaboration was also a goal in how the building will bring together those tenants, including three different Mayo Clinic departments, said Chris Schad, director of business development for the Discovery Square subdistrict of the Destination Medical Center.

“Right from the beginning, it was a fairly easy decision to say those three groups are going to be on different floors. They’re not going to be all bunched up in one space behind closed walls,” Schad said.

Instead the three teams – advanced diagnostics, biomedical imaging and regenerative medicine – will have space on floors two, three and four to be closer to partner companies that will occupy space immediately next to the researchers and scientists.

The space can also be reconfigured as needs change. Jay Hesley, chief of staff at the University of Minnesota Rochester, said the university’s space on floors one and three will meet short- and long-term needs.

“We absolutely needed a solution to lab space this year in order to continue to grow at the pace we were projecting. This space coming online in the fall is perfectly timed,” he said, noting that some space currently planned for classrooms has the needed equipment to become additional lab space in future years. “This is actually space that we think of in terms of decades providing services and solutions.”

The Destination Medical Center master plan calls for 2 million square feet of additional research and lab space over 20 years, and the organization lists Mortenson’s building as “Phase One.” Jeremy Jacobs, the company’s director of real estate development, said Mortenson is very interested in continuing work in the Discovery Square area. “We think there continues to be robust demand in the market,” he said. “The type of space the market is looking for is changing, so it’s office, it’s lab, it’s tech-based space, and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as developers if we weren’t thinking about how to meet the needs of the market…In the not-too-distant future, I think that we would certainly hope to have another building that we could talk about.”

Heart of the City Design Receives DMCC Board Nod

Universal Design a Key Element

The Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) Board has approved design for DMC’s Heart of the City and public realm development, which includes the east side of Peace Plaza, First Avenue and adjacent alleys in downtown Rochester.

The Heart of the City design addresses seven key goals, including: safety, accessibility and universal design, public space, flexibility, sustainability, art integration and infrastructure.

The DMCC Board also authorized development of construction documents, with the expectation of construction commencing in the spring of 2020.

“This critical work in Heart of the City and Rochester’s downtown core is setting a new standard for public space design and engagement,” said Lisa Clarke, executive director, DMC Economic Development Agency. “Residents, visitors and patients will experience a welcoming, safe, accessible and much greener Peace Plaza and surrounding area.”

DMC has been prototyping various design elements in Heart of the City including, most recently, Universal Design in Peace Plaza with some benches that will be tested, modified and re-tested in new locations throughout the summer.

Universal Design is defined as: “The design of products and environments to be useful by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

For Heart of the City, it means that everything being created and built for each of the spaces (First Avenue, Peace Plaza and alleys) is designed to be accessible to everyone who uses them, as well as accommodate a wide range of individual preferences, experiences, languages and capabilities.

MOKA, soon to provide a new coffee experience in Peace Plaza, is incorporating elements of Universal Design into its retail space. MOKA Project Manager Julie Hatlem highlights what guests can expect: “Coming directly off the Plaza we have a no-step building entry that everyone can use easily and together. Inside the cafe, we have kept our walkway open and spacious to accommodate greater accessibility. The order counter and serving counter are both at a lower height to make it easy for everyone to order and pick up their drinks. When designing our custom tables and seating, we took into consideration several elements of Universal Design: Body fit, comfort, wellness, and social integration. Seating will be built to accommodate a wide range of body sizes and abilities. Tables will have ample space for wheelchairs to easily access and join a conversation.”

Peace Plaza will be the third location in Rochester for MOKA.

“Coffee is a universal language that brings people together and to us, it is a natural fit for MOKA to be at the heart of all of the city. We look forward to opening our doors on Peace Plaza this summer,” said Hatlem.


Coworking Spaces Growing in Rochester

Collider Coworking

Coworking – a method through which an individual or group can rent a desk in an open workspace environment- is a trend on the rise. However, coworking can offer more than just an office space. Coworking can provide a platform for community supported innovation and can foster and support entrepreneurship, vital components for the future of Destination Medical Center (DMC) Discovery Square as a top attraction for medical innovation.

Coworking businesses typically offer desk rental agreements that are flexible, offering daily, weekly, and monthly rates. The coworking model can be a good fit for entrepreneurs, small teams, freelancers, and remote workers for larger corporations.

However, coworking can provide more than just a place outside of the home office to perform business. It can offer community to remote workers, facilitating collaboration and innovation that might otherwise not occur in the typical work environment. This consolidation of people and ideas also permits a faster flow of resources to entrepreneurs.

“We are seeing that in large markets,” explained Bucky Beeman, co-owner of Offices at China Hall. “Google is taking space. Amazon is taking space. Other corporations are taking space within a coworking atmosphere.”

“I always say that people come for the desk but stay for the community,” said Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking.

Sundsbak, who manages both Collider Prime in the Conley Maass Downs Building and Collider 424 on the Mayo Clinic campus, says the members are one of the most unique aspects of his coworking spaces.

Open space coworking may not be a viable option for those who require more privacy or have specific workspace needs. Also, as startups in coworking spaces grow, they find themselves with a new level of space needs – shared space but with private offices.

China Hall

To meet this changing demand, several of the coworking spaces in Rochester now offer private offices. This includes individual offices at Collider 424 and Offices at China Hall. The Vault, managed by Tessa Leung, has twelve private offices. The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator managed by Xavier Frigola, has both open coworking space and nine private offices.

Beyond an actual physical presence, coworking within DMC can organically serve as sites to accelerate innovation for both their members and for the entire community.

“If you have an idea for an event, if you have an idea on how you can activate the coworking space, or if you want to do a meetup of some sort, I think that the coworking space itself is a good place to start those conversations because it could lead to unlocking an opportunity to your idea becoming a reality,” said Beeman.

DMC’s Real Estate Summit Highlights Transit Oriented Development

With the workforce in the Destination Medical Center (DMC) district projected to nearly double by 2040, how best to efficiently move those thousands of new employees in and out of downtown Rochester is a top priority for DMC planners and city officials.

The DMC Economic Development Agency foresees district workforce levels zooming from 35,250 to 62,400 over the next 21 years. And while that may seem like a rather long timeframe, the reality is different. Accomplishing the kind of large-scale transportation build-out needed to cope with such an impressive jump is complex and takes years to plan, finance and execute.

That’s why DMC and City of Rochester planners have been working hard on developing an innovative transportation strategy over the last several years, one that seeks to leverage public transit improvements to spur follow-on private commercial investment – a phenomenon also known as transit-oriented development, or “TOD.”

They shared the plan’s details at the recent DMC Real Estate Development and Investment Summit, an event staged by the Minnesota Real Estate Journal and aimed at commercial real estate professionals from Rochester, the Twin Cities and elsewhere who are intrigued by the business opportunities being created by the DMC effort.

It was perhaps fitting that the Summit was among the first public events held at the newly-opened Hilton Downtown Rochester, itself one of the first concrete examples of the DMC initiative.

A hot topic for the real estate professionals in attendance was likely the discussion of the DMC/Rochester transportation plan and TOD. One big reason for that is the spectacular success of Metro Transit, the Twin Cities’ transit agency, in spurring hundreds of millions of dollars of TOD along its new light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines.

Summit presenters Lucy Ferguson Galbraith and Michael Greif of Metro Transit shared some of those numbers. A new study they performed found, for instance, that transit upgrades carried out between 2003 and 2017 spurred the development of more than 15,500 multifamily units during that time frame, with 15,000 more units currently planned or under construction.

In addition to multifamily, they found that $3.7 billion of commercial development and $850 million of public and institutional development were sparked along the LRT/BRT routes during the 14-year span. All told, while TOD comprised fully 33 percent of all commercial development in the Twin Cities region, it was squeezed onto just 1.7 percent of its land mass — demonstrating the power of modern transit to attract investment.

So how exactly is Rochester and the DMC planning to tap the TOD phenomenon? That question was addressed by Deputy Rochester City Administrator Aaron Parrish, who described how – pending federal funding — BRT is to play a crucial role in providing a reliable, frequent and comfortable connection between downtown employers and a pair of remote “Transit Villages” – one to be built at Mayo’s West Lot near Cascade Lake and the other at Graham Park in the southeast of the city.

Parrish related how these Transit Villages are meant to be far more than mere park-and-ride lots. The plan is for them to host true TOD development, including up to 800 multifamily housing units and 58,000 square feet of commercial/retail at the Mayo West site, while the Graham Park site would be part of a larger master plan with diverse development options.

Meanwhile, the city is modifying its zoning regulations along the possible BRT routes on 2nd Street S.W. and Broadway/3rd Ave. S.W. to allow for new types of mixed-use TOD projects encouraging more transit usage.

DMC Introduces New Art + Design in Public Space Series

Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA), the City of Rochester and the Heart of the City design team are launching an Art + Design in Public Space Series.

The Art + Design in Public Space Series will be held monthly from May to October 2019, with a presentation and conversation on the roles art and design play in creating vibrant public spaces. Topics ranging from how art and design can reflect local context and values to how to create interaction and spectacle in public space.

The public is invited to the first event on Thursday, May 16, 2019, from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. at Castle Community to hear about universal design from Katherine Darnstadt, founder of Latent Design, who will share how people of all abilities need to feel a sense of belonging in a place and how design does that. The design and placement of seating, the space given for mobility, and the clarity of functions within cities all work together at different scales to make public spaces welcoming to all.

“It’s important that all people feel welcome and included in our public spaces,” said Patrick Seeb, DMC EDA director of economic development and placemaking. “Universal design is key to ensuring accessibility for everyone.”

This event is free and open to everyone. Registration is required. Seating is limited. More information about the Heart of the City design process can be found here.

New Hyatt House Breaks Ground in Downtown Rochester

City and Destination Medical Center (DMC) officials, development professionals, and members of the community gathered with developers PEG Companies (PEG) and EKN Development Group (EKN) on April 11 to break ground on the Rochester Hyatt House. This 172-room extended stay hotel is located on the former Legion site in downtown Rochester.

“The DMC legislation has created an excellent opportunity for developers and investors to invest in Rochester, Minnesota and join the vision to be part of the City’s growth as the medical capital of the world,” said Ebbie Nakhjavani, president and chief executive officer of EKN.  “With its elegant design, the Rochester Hyatt House hotel will stand as a shining testament of what can be achieved through collaborative public-private partnership.”

“This new hotel property is a wonderful addition and fills a niche for visitors and patients to Rochester, Minnesota,” said Lisa Clarke, executive director of the DMC EDA. “It’s another great example of the investor and development community taking notice of the tremendous opportunities that exist in Rochester.”

Project leaders regard the property itself as a formative piece of Rochester’s history and paid special tribute to the American Legion, Post #92 – the land’s previous stewards – at the groundbreaking.  This organization served the Mayo Brothers Veterans; Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr. Charles H. Mayo in the early 1900’s.  

The Rochester Hyatt House is slated for completion in summer 2020.


Honoring the Rochester American Legion

EKN Development wanted a way to honor and recognize the American Legion in Rochester, Minnesota. When the Rochester Hyatt House opens in summer 2020, it will display a special flag donated by the Rochester American Legion Wm. T. McCoy Post #92. The flag was retired in a ceremony on January 15, 2019. During the ceremony, the Post’s Honor Guard fired rifles and a bugler played Taps for all its fallen members. The shell casings are the blanks that were fired.

Meet the Developer: Titan Development & Investments

With the April 16 opening of the Hilton Downtown Rochester fast approaching, Rochester is preparing to celebrate the completion of one of the first concrete examples of the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative. So, it’s probably fitting that the driving force behind the landmark project is a local company with deep roots in the Rochester community – Titan Development & Investments.

DMC recently chatted with Titan Development & Investments leadership to learn more about their long history in Rochester, their upcoming opening of the Hilton hotel, and a look into the future.


Titan has a long history of being a successful developer. What do you attribute that to?

Titan has always had a diverse portfolio because we are able to strategically shift to different asset classes as the market changes on a local and national level. One of the big reasons that we are able to be this aggressive and continually deliver superior results is that we have a dedicated team focusing on the entire process including financing, planning, and construction management.

Innovation and Entrepreneurism Highlighted During Minnesota DEED Commissioner Visit to Rochester

MN DEED Commissioner tours One Discovery Square Pictured left to right: Chris Frank, Mortenson, MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, Senator Carla Nelson, Patrick Seeb, DMC EDA, Lisa Clarke, DMC EDA, Natalie Siderius, MN DEED

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove recently stopped in Rochester to meet with Destination Medical Center (DMC) leaders, to tour innovation sectors in the city, and to discuss new startup incentives with Rochester’s entrepreneurs.

Grove, a native of Northfield, Minn., built his career in the private tech sector, spending time at both Google and YouTube before relocating back to Minnesota with his family. After being appointed DEED Commissioner by Governor Walz this January, he’s now tasked to revitalize Minnesota’s innovation economy to help make the state a magnet for top tech talent.

As part of this plan, Governor Walz issued a $9 million budget proposal for a Minnesota Innovation Collaborative (MIC) to encourage startup growth in the state. The MIC would utilize grants and other resources to help lower risks associated with starting high growth potential businesses, including early grant funding, R&D vouchers, an entrepreneur benefits package, and enhanced educational opportunities. Walz’s proposal also includes reinstatement of the Angel Tax Credit incentive to encourage investment into early stage Minnesota startups. If approved, MIC would be administered by DEED.

During his meeting with DMC leadership, the commissioner saw the growth in downtown Rochester and learned how the DMC initiative is serving as a successful model of economic development for the state. In a separate meeting with local entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, government officials, and DMC staff, the commissioner shared information about the Governor’s priorities related to entrepreneurism and learned more about the local innovation community. As part of the visit, Grove also toured One Discovery Square and other innovation hotspots in downtown Rochester, including Collider Coworking and the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Grove’s visit highlights the growing interest in Rochester and DMC as a success story in economic development and as a major technology hub within the state. If approved, MIC could have major implications for entrepreneurship and startup growth in the Discovery Square sub-district.

“It was great to have Commissioner Grove see for himself how the DMC initiative is catalyzing economic development in Rochester, and how we can serve as a model for other Minnesota communities interested in developing similar public-private partnerships for growth,” said Lisa Clarke, executive director for DMC EDA. “With One Discovery Square opening this year, Rochester is entering into a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship. We are positioned to benefit from the MIC initiative.”

Rochester Entrepreneurial Spotlight: COVR Medical

Mayo Clinic spinout and Rochester-based COVR Medical aims to protect patient privacy and dignity during surgical procedures. Driven by a passion to fulfill an unmet medical need, COVR was founded by husband and wife team Dr. Bruce Levy, MD, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, and Heather Levy in 2014. With three medical garments currently on the market, COVR is facilitating patient dignity one surgery at a time.

Dr. Levy’s “passion for improving the patient experience” ultimately moved him to become an entrepreneur. During one particular surgical case, he requested a blue towel be used to cover a patient to avoid patient exposure to the entire operating room staff during the procedure. However, the towel kept dropping to the operating room floor during the surgery as the patient was moved, leaving the patient naked and exposed for the majority of the operation.

Distressed by the situation, Dr. Levy searched the market for possible solutions to remedy this problem. Finding none, he decided to create his own solution, a medical garment that could cover and protect patient dignity during surgeries in the groin area while allowing adequate access for medical staff.

In 2014, Dr. Levy utilized Mayo Clinic’s Employee Entrepreneurship Program (EEP) to license the intellectual property for the garment line from Mayo to launch his startup, COVR Medical. Two years later, Dr. Levy presented his idea at the Walleye Tank business pitch competition hosted by the Office of Entrepreneurship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. COVR Medical won first place.

Since that time, COVR has grown to a five-person team including Dr. Bruce Levy, Cofounder and CEO; Heather Levy, Cofounder and President; Romeo Catracchia, Chief Commercial Officer; Thomas Pavilon, US National Sales Manager, and Donald Cilley, Manufacturing Manager.

COVR, Dr. Levy explains, is a pioneer. The company is not bringing a better product to the market but is instead creating a whole new class of products, which can come with unique challenges. However, he says COVR continues to gain momentum with leading US medical institutions, demonstrating the value of their products.

As a Mayo Clinic surgeon, it felt natural for Dr. Levy and wife Heather to grow their company in this city.

“Understanding and overcoming the challenges of starting a business is no easy task and we are extremely grateful to find a thriving, helpful, and welcoming entrepreneurial climate in Rochester, Minnesota,” Dr. Levy explained.

Through the EEP program, COVR connected with several local consultants and organizations that assist Rochester startups including the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, Medical Alley Association, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“I remained amazed at how many people unselfishly dedicated their time and expertise in guiding us towards making the right decisions for our company,” he said.

Dr. Levy thinks that “success breeds success” in the Destination Medical Center (DMC) entrepreneurial climate, where thriving startups will allow more startups to launch and grow. He sees the DMC vision to make Rochester a premier medical community of extreme value, especially for healthcare focused startups.

“It’s very much a symbiotic and synergistic relationship between successful entrepreneurs and the supportive organizations that help make them successful,” he said. “I think we can all work collaboratively and mutually benefit from our combined efforts.”