Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, is asking its directors to create a new post called vice president, research and development that will be attractive to scientists with commercial experience. The search comes just as the agency is about to award its critical disease team grants, which, at $210 million, are the largest research grant round in CIRM history.
Csete's resignation and her complaints about the organization have received international attention and raised questions about CIRM's management, which the agency has not responded to publicly.
John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said Csete's position was the second most important at CIRM. He said,
“Before this new position is created, I think there needs to be a full, public explanation of why the former chief scientific officer, Dr. Marie Csete, resigned after a little more than a year on the job.”In a memo to CIRM directors, Trounson said the new position would provide an opportunity to “find someone with the skill base to have more of a focus in their role with biotech/pharma – translation – clinical applications, which is where we are moving with our translational, disease teams and clinical grants and where we are thin in capacity.”
The new vice president would report to Trounson and apparently rank at the same level as the vice president for operations, John Robson. The new person would be the third in four years to fill the post or its equivalent.
Trounson's proposal, which will come before CIRM directors Aug. 6 in a special teleconference meeting, did not specify a salary range. Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, did not respond to questions about pay. Currently the salary range for Robson and the chief scientific officer tops out at $332,000. Csete was paid $310,000.
Trounson's memo said that the new position is designed to attract applicants with “academic-commercial R&D experience.” Trounson said,
“Pharma is now wishing to engage with us and we need some experience at this interface which we haven’t had to date. The biotech firms had been a bit put off due to a lack of success in granting but are now very keen to re-engage if we can solve some of the issues that have arisen.“Trounson said the new VP would have primary responsibility for relations with the FDA and the NIH. He said the person would “oversee the basic science and translational to clinical program and partner with the executive director of scientific activities to support and empower the science team.”
The designation of an “executive” director of scientific activities also appears to be new. The current CIRM organizational chart refers only to a “director of scientific activities.”
The CIRM president's memo said a “number of very good people” have indicated an interest in the new VP post.
The Aug. 6 meeting is open to the public and is available at teleconference locations throughout the state, including San Francisco(3), Los Angeles(3), Sacramento, La Jolla(3), Pleasanton, Healdsburg, Duarte, Stanford, Berkeley, Irvine and Palo Alto. The specific addresses can be found on the agenda.