Friday, August 31, 2007

Chris Scott: Rocky Road Ahead for CIRM

A onetime candidate for the presidency of the California stem cell agency today outlined his views of the challenges facing the agency in the next 12 months or so. They include the "K-factor," the politics of the CIRM Oversight Committee and micromanagement.

Christopher Scott, head of the Stem Cells in Society Program at Stanford, said, among other things, in an op-ed piece in The Sacramento Bee:
"The institute must quickly find a replacement for (its No. 1 scientist, Arlene) Chiu and double its staff; put in place efficient mechanisms for research and ethical oversight; generate new rounds of proposals, renewals and reviews."
The Bee noted that Scott had been a candidate earlier for the permanent presidency of the institute but said he is not a candidate currently.

Scott wrote that Richard Murphy, the new interim presidency of CIRM "should demand more control over the institute's budget line items and governance decisions while listening to the strong personalities on the citizens committee and in Sacramento."

Scott said:
"The Red Cross collapsed under the weight of its hydra-headed board; the difficult issues centered on control and the dysfunction of consensus management. CIRM faces some of the same problems. Paying attention to the needs of the major players and being flexible to alternate views will help him balance control."
Scott continued, hitting various topics:
"The K-Factor. Robert Klein(chairman of the Oversight Committee) is a blue-chip entrepreneur, passionate advocate and hero to many. His forceful personality and charisma made the institute what it is, but these qualities may not be suited for efficiently executing its mission. Though Klein has said he will step down in 2008, some founding entrepreneurs mistime their exit. Murphy will have to deftly manage Klein's freewheeling ways, leveraging his strengths while covering his weaknesses. Checking the ego at the door will help."
Scott wrote,
"Secession. Any executive who has worked in a startup knows six months will pass in an instant. A permanent president must be found, one who can handle the political challenges while tending to the small stuff, the decidedly unsexy but essential routine of ramping up and running a large research granting agency."
He concluded:
"CIRM's second phase is more important than the first. California voters put their money on the line for a vision of science and medicine. Now comes the hard part. The institute must execute the plan, bringing new knowledge, discoveries and therapies to California."
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