The move – first reported by the California Stem Cell Report on Sunday – was officially confirmed today by the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla and the California stem cell agency.
The agency put up $5.9 million in taxpayer funds in the form of a research grant. Sanford-Burnham added an “extremely generous commitment” to bring Robert Wechsler-Reya to the Golden State. He is the first recipient in CIRM's $44 million research leadership award program.
The stem cell agency's program is also likely the first of its kind in the nation. The Wechsler-Reya recruitment starts it off well, given its goal of bringing "franchise players" to California. The agency sent a message to stem cell researchers across the nation that they should be looking ever more closely at California if they want to move forward aggressively with their careers.
The effort also highlights the built-in conflicts of interest at CIRM. Potential beneficiaries of the program include 12 members of the 29-member CIRM governing board whose institutions could use the funds to lure talent.
Others outside of the state may not look kindly on the effort. It could increase the cost of retaining talent, which, of course, could lead to sweeter deals for researchers, even if they stay in place.
In California, some researchers may regard the recruitment as boosting the field generally. Others are likely to think the money may have been better used to fund scientists already in the state. Adding Wechsler-Reya to the pool of potential applicants for CIRM's remaining $2 billion also increases the competition.
Robert Klein, chairman of the California stem cell agency, said in a statement that scientists recruited through the effort will help develop innovative therapies and push CIRM's mission forward. He touted the effort as something of a job creation program for California, which is mired in a serious economic slump and a state budget crisis. Klein said,
“Bringing this caliber of scientist to California also creates high paying positions to staff the labs, providing new jobs and tax revenue to the state.”The official statement from Sanford-Burnham today said that Wechsler-Reya was appointed professor and director of the Tumor Development Program in the institute’s NCI-designated cancer center.
The announcement quoted Wechsler-Reya as saying,
“The strength of the scientific community there, particularly in cancer biology, stem cell biology and neurobiology, is unparalleled. This move promises to transform the way we do science, and I am grateful to Sanford-Burnham and CIRM for making it possible.”The news release did not mention Wechsler-Reya's wife, Tannistha, who is also a Duke stem cell researcher. We are querying the couple and Sanford-Burnham about whether she is also joining the institute, as was originally expected.
Oddly, CIRM's news release on the consummation of the deal seemed to downplay the monetary size of its role. It said that the grant to Wechsler-Reya was only $5 million, as opposed to $5.9 million. Sphere: Related Content