Monday, August 27, 2007

More Analysis on the Chiu Resignation

The following came in today from Christopher Thomas Scott, head of the Stem Cells in Society Program at Stanford, concerning the departure of Arlene Chiu(see item below). He makes the very good point that, compared to the NIH, CIRM is working with quite lean staff resources.

Here are Scott's comments:
"The other shoe dropped at CIRM. Arlene Chiu, the top executive responsible for the nuts and bolts of the organization, resigned. Her manifold responsibilities included the tough work of writing and disseminating the agency's request for proposals, scheduling and running a time consuming and complicated scientific review process, overseeing the awards, managing staff, and most recently, filling a leadership vacuum left by the departure of former president Zach Hall. For those of us familiar with the research grants business, we know Dr. Chiu as a tireless and enthusiastic science professional, and understood how she kept CIRM on its feet. She did much of this working with less staff than stipulated by the operating budget. Even at full strength, the numbers of professionals in her group would be far fewer than a comparable agency of the NIH, where she and Hall had made their professional careers. There, the institutes have the benefit of massive federal support. Here, Hall and Chiu, along with a skeleton crew, had to manage the launch of an organization while fighting lawsuits, scrabbling for money, and dancing through political hoops. While the reasons for Dr. Chiu's departure are known only to her, its likely she's tired of the long hours, the pressures of running a research enterprise on thin margins and the purgatory caused by an unsuccessful presidential search.

"Interim president Richard Murphy, on the state rolls for only 180 days, has a doubly difficult task in front of him. He must find a replacement for his top scientist and one for himself. And, the award money must reach the California labs, which have begun to ramp up the experiments that will bring new knowledge and hopefully, new therapies to Californians. Any executive who has been in a start up knows that six months will pass in an instant. More importantly, it is just as hard, perhaps harder, to execute a vision as ambitious as this than to have it in the first place."
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