Friday, August 10, 2007

CIRM Presidential Search: Looking for the Right Phenotype

Is there too much "reflection" in the search for a permanent president of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, which has been operating on a lame-duck-CEO basis since December?

At least one member of the agency's 29-member Oversight Committee thinks so. Jeff Sheehy told The Scientist that the board is focusing excessively on persons with strong scientific backgrounds and not enough on good managers.

Writer Bob Grant quoted Sheehy as saying,
"I feel like we have a lot of deans of medical schools on our board, and they keep looking in the mirror. I'm not sure that's the phenotype that we need in this job."
Grant continued:
"Sheehy added that Murphy's appointment only delays the institute's need to seriously consider this identity issue. 'In a way he's a band-aid on a deeper problem we have,' said Sheehy, 'which is not coming to terms with what the job is. I think we keep punting on this issue.'"
The main focus of Grant's piece was the appointment of Richard Murphy, former head of the Salk Institute in the San Diego area, as interim president. Murphy was quoted as saying,
"My job as president is going to be, first and foremost, to make sure the operation of CIRM is efficient and effective."
Murphy added,
"I don't think that the role of the president is to evaluate science."
Grant noted Murphy will not take part in decisions affecting San Diego institutions. Grant also wrote:
"Evan Snyder, stem cell program director at San Diego's Burnham Institute for Medical Research, told The Scientist that though Murphy has recused himself from making direct funding decisions when San Diego institutions are involved, he will be valuable to the community because of his intimate knowledge of science in the area. 'He has an appreciation for what's going on in San Diego, and I know that will be a great benefit to us,' Snyder said. The Burnham Institute has already received almost $13.5 million in CIRM money."
In a separate addition to the story, Grant quoted California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein as making it clear that it was not seeking candidates for the permanent position who want to maintain active labs. That was a stumbling block in the previous presidential search. Sphere: Related Content

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