Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nature Magazine Says Bernstein Is Still A Possibility for CIRM Chair

Canadian scientist Alan Bernstein is not necessarily off the table as a candidate to become the next chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, Nature magazine's Web site is reporting today.

His name popped up in a piece by Elie Dolgin about the re-election of Bob Klein for a term of six months as chair  at the agency as he and the CIRM board search for his replacement.

Dolgin had interviewed Klein prior to yesterday's vote and reported that Klein would “like someone with industry experience who has worked with U.S. drug regulators in the past.” Previously Klein, a real estate investment banker, said he thought a nationally known scientist was necessary to replace him as chair. The CIRM board, which chooses the chair, has not specified the criteria it desires, but is scheduled to do so over the next 60 days.

Dolgin continued,
“Notably, Bernstein’s name is not necessarily off the table. According to Klein, California’s attorney general-elect Kamala Harris will look into the legality of a 1978 attorney general decision ruling that the requirement of citizenship for holding public office is unconstitutional.”
Dolgin's story was one of only two that we have seen thus far concerning Klein's re-election. The board specified yesterday that he should serve no more than six months. Klein said he hoped to leave sooner because of family reasons. He was receiving a half-time $150,000 salary but will receive no pay during his new service.

We reported earlier on the other story on the election by Ron Leuty in the San Francisco Business Times. It noted that the next nominees for chair will come from four state officials, all Democrats, including the newly elected governor and lieutenant governor, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom respectively. That is a good situation for Art Torres, co-vice chair of CIRM, and who is likely to be a candidate again for chair. Torres was head of the state Democratic Party and a longtime state legislator. He knows all the nominating officials. Torres was nominated by the state controller this month but withdrew his name in favor of Klein.

During its public session, the board expressed no displeasure with Klein's attempts to engineer the selection of his successor.  Sherry Lansing, chair of the directors' Governance Subcommittee, said nothing illegal or incorrect occurred.  But Dolgin wrote,
"Not everyone was happy with this scenario. In a strongly-worded letter sent two days ago, state Controller John Chiang urged the CIRM board members to delay their decision and start anew with fresh nominees. 'It is clear that the current selection process is fundamentally flawed,' Chiang wrote. 'The taxpayers who provide the funds for CIRM must be assured that the chair and vice chair are selected in an open, transparent process — not through a backroom deal or by default because a deal has fallen apart.'

"'This path that they’ve gone down is a face-saving path for Klein who screwed up this election by trying to manipulate it and tap his own successor,' says John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of the Santa Monica-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. “He needs to let go and let the board step up and exercise its oversight responsibilities without constantly trying to pull the strings.'"
As for Klein's mention of the possibility that Bernstein's name would come up again, that would appear to be extremely unlikely. Bernstein told the Toronto Globe and Mail that the ruckus surrounding Klein's maneuvers damaged his (Bernstein's) reputation and that of the California stem cell agency.

As for the citizenship issue, it is difficult to understand why Klein is raising the matter again, except to note that he earlier misrepresented the attorney general's opinion as the reason for Bernstein being compelled to drop out of consideration.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item said that Dolgin interviewed Klein yesterday.) Sphere: Related Content

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