Cate Dyer '05 (Sociology)

2015 Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Published by Sacramento State's Office of Public Affairs

Efficiency and breakthroughs in healthcare don’t often go hand in hand. Cate Dyer ’05 (Sociology) set out to change that.

Her company, StemExpress, supplies human blood, tissue products, cells and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers around the world. Since it launched in 2010, it’s blossomed into a multi-million dollar company, based in a beautiful, 19,000 square-foot building in downtown Placerville.

As a student at Santa Barbara City College, Dyer worked on a transplant procurement team at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and throughout her four years at Sac State, she worked for a tissue procurement company, all the while planning on attending medical school. But when she saw inefficiencies and flaws in the transplant/procurement industry, she began thinking about how she could make a difference.

“I really liked the research side of the medical field, but I also liked patient care. I knew that I wanted to do something in both areas, but I didn’t know how that was going to blend,” says Dyer, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Sac State Alumni Association. “I think that’s what ultimately pulled me away from being a physician. I knew that if I just focused on patient care, I would be overlooking this whole area of research that I felt really passionate about.”

Dyer earned her degree in sociology, initially thinking it would set her up for success as a doctor. In fact, studying society and human behavior prepared her for life as a hands-on CEO.

“I think sociology really helped me understand people,” says Dyer, who oversees a rapidly growing staff of more than 20. “I’ve got people on staff that are age 65 and as young as 22 and that’s a huge gap. You have to know what are pressure points, and what are positive points, for different people.”

StemExpress’ revenue grew by a whopping 1,315 percent from 2011 to 2014, ranking no. 363 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. How did it happen? Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and researchers have come to rely on StemExpress, which offers the largest variety of raw material in the industry, according to Dyer. A few companies rent out space in the Placerville facility to conduct research on site and Dyer plans to invest in planes to speed up the delivery process for potentially life-saving material to clients all over the country.

“I want to accelerate the process for research and hospitals,” Dyer says. “If we had the cure for cancer today, it would take eight to10 years for it to get to hospitals. Six years of that is sourcing samples for research and trials. When I saw that, I knew we could make a difference in that area.”

Dyer has hired several Sac State graduates and is hoping to open a space on campus where students can donate blood and tissue and learn more about StemExpress’ mission.

Dyer says one of her biggest inspirations is her sister, Charlotte Ivancic. She too had aspirations of being doctor, but took a detour and is now an esteemed healthcare law expert.

As StemExpress grows, so does Dyer’s daily agenda. She’s fielded offers and inquiries about going public with the company, but for now, Dyer is living her dream and making a difference in the healthcare industry.

“I have so much that I think the company is going to do over the next three to five years that I don’t want to get diluted with spreadsheets of projections all day long,” she says. “I’d rather just roll my sleeves up and do it.”