Monday, March 22, 2010

CIRM Moving to Hire VP at More Than $332,000

The California stem cell agency may well have a new vice president of research and development by the end of this month and at a salary exceeding the $332,000 allotted for the position.

CIRM directors will meet one week from today to consider raising the existing pay range for the position. CIRM President Alan Trounson obviously has a candidate that wants more than $332,000, and the board is not likely to reject Trounson's choice. To do so would indicate a lack of confidence in Trounson.

CIRM has not disclosed exactly what the new salary will be or explained why it is needed. Don't look for that information until the day of the meeting and probably only if you are in attendance at one of the telephonic meeting locations around the state. CIRM generally has not posted such sensitive salary information in advance of meetings.

Trounson was eager to find someone with industry experience. Last July, Trounson told directors that he wanted “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.”

Trounson hired Levin and Company at a cost of $100,000 to help with the search.

The new position was created by Trounson after Marie Csete resigned suddenly last June as CIRM's chief scientific officer. She said her advice was not respected. Her position will not be filled, but her responsibilities are being parcelled out to the new VP and Patricia Olson, executive director of scientific activities, who has been with the agency since its early days. Under a new structure announced last August, Olson reports directly to Trounson as will the new VP. Previously Olson reported to the chief scientific officer.

The compensation for the new post was scheduled to come up at the CIRM board meeting earlier this month in the State Capitol. CIRM chairman Robert Klein took the matter off the table the day of the meeting, saying negotiations were not at the right stage.

The move came on the same day as The Sacramento Bee carried a front page story that said California state workers received 4 percent less pay last year than in 2008 as a result of the state's financial crisis. Approval of a salary beyond $332,000 creates a public relations risk for CIRM, given the severe cutbacks elsewhere around the state. CIRM's salaries are already quite generous compared to other state agencies.

Salaries are easy for the public to criticize and to understand, especially compared to arcane scientific studies that may not seem immediately relevant to many people. Additionally, boosting a $332,000 salary without telling the public in advance why or specifying the size of the increase plays into the hands of those who are critical of CIRM's lack of transparency and openness.

The new VP will have a financial impact on CIRM beyond the salary. He or she is expected to have at least two or more staffers assigned to work for him or her. They will be new hires at CIRM, which is already chafing under the legal limit of 50 employees. In fact, Trounson has warned that the quality of work could slip unless a way is found to circumvent or repeal the cap.

Another matter is on the table as well next Monday. The item says,

"Consideration of guidance and CIRM’s Medical and Ethical Standards regarding use of previously NIH approved lines in CIRM-funded research and additional lines that are comparable to CIRM’s recommendations to the NIH and/or would be grandfathered or approved under those recommendations.”

No further explanation was offered by CIRM.

Interested parties can take part in the board proceedings at teleconference locations throughout the state including San Francisco(4), Los Angeles(2), La Jolla(2), San Diego, Duarte, Berkeley, Sacramento, Pleasanton and Healdsburg. More locations could be added in the next few days. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:41 PM

    $27,667 per month. Wow, that's more than some of the top posts at CIRM. And it's still not enough? Who might be named to this plum spot? Any guesses?