Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More On Richard Murphy and His Role at CIRM

As promised, here is more on the appointment of former Salk Institute President Richard Murphy as the interim president of the California stem cell agency.

Murphy was voted on following a 2.5-hour lunch/executive personnel session, which Oversight Committee Chairman Robert Klein originally predicted would last one hour. Only one no vote was heard during the voice vote following the executive session. That was from Jeff Sheehy. We did not have a chance to catch up with him following the meeting, but he told us earlier he was "not comfortable with the direction" the Oversight Committee was going. His comment came shortly after he was the sole negative vote on whether even to allow the subject of a possible interim hire to be considered at today's meeting.

Murphy starts work tomorrow, although he is not scheduled to relocate from the San Diego area to San Francisco until after Labor Day. His contract runs until March 4.

As we reported below, his salary will be $300,000 for roughly six months of service. That compares to the current $412,500 annual salary cap on the permanent president's salary. However, Murphy will not accept fringe benefits from CIRM. The cost of state fringe benefits range from 35 percent of salary to more. Murphy will forgo Salk-financed retirement benefits such as health insurance. That was part of a move to avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest involving Salk.

Murphy will recuse himself from any decisions involving San Diego area institutions. John M. Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights raised another possible conflict involving Murphy's service on the board of the biomedical industry group, the California Healthcare Institute. That institute has lobbied CIRM for intellectual property rules that are favorable to industry. However, Philip Pizzo, a member of the Oversight Committee and dean of Stanford's medical school, said Murphy had resigned from the CHI board. Pizzo said he knew because he currently services on the CHI panel.

Murphy, 62, also agreed not to be a candidate during the search for a permanent president at CIRM.

Some of you may recall that Murphy earlier this year was involved in reconfiguring the dual executive structure at CIRM to make it more appealing for recruitment purposes. At one point, he called the agency's executive structure "a dog's breakfast."

As for a look at the conventional news coverage of the appointment of a new, albeit interim CEO for the world's single largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research, we filed a report for Wired.com. Reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune was quick with a story on Murphy's appointment at 3:33 p.m. today although she was not present at the meeting.

San Diego is a global hotbed for stem cell research. Somers is currently the leading California reporter on California's stem cell business, which is No. 1 in the nation. No other writer has devoted the energy or time in the last year to the subject, but of course that could change.

We surmise that cost-cutting imperatives, currently rampant in the sagging newspaper business, prevented her from traveling. A poor decision for a paper that circulates in one of the hottest spots in the world for stem cell research, but a decision that is not much different than ill-considered moves by most of the ailing daily newspaper enterprises in this country. What newspapers sell is audience. The buyers are advertisers(75 percent or so revenues have traditionally come from advertisers). When the content is nil or irrelevant, audience shrinks, which it has been doing nationally for several decades as cost-cutting mavens ruled the day in the newspaper business. Business researchers at UC Davis have done a serious study that illuminates this trend.

But, as they say, I digress. Here are some other links to the only other two stories on Murphy we found at the time of this writing, although they are quite brief: Jim Downing, Sacramento Bee; San Francisco Business Times. Sphere: Related Content

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