Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stanford Loses Star Stem Cell Researcher to Montana State University

Renee Reijo Pera, Stanford photo

The California stem cell community today chalked up its second departure of the month with the announcement that Renee Reijo Pera is leaving Stanford to join Montana State University.

The news about Reijo Pera, whose research is recognized internationally, comes only one week after Alan Trounson announced he was leaving his post as the president of the $3 billion California stem cell agency to return to Australia. 

Reijo Pera, 54, will become the new vice president for research, creativity and technology transfer at Montana State in Bozeman beginning Jan. 15. Currently director of Stanford's Center for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Education, Reijo Pera has won $24.4 million from the California stem cell agency in addition to her federally funded research.

She has been at Stanford since 2007 after leaving UC San Francisco. Prior to her 10 years at UC San Francisco, she was at MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. (Her resume can be found here.)

Reporter Gale Schontzer of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle wrote anicely detailed story on Reijo Pera's appointment. Schonzter said that MSU research funding dropped 17 percent this year to $94 million, partly because of the loss of some researchers. She quoted a Montana spokesperson as saying that Reijo Pera “has amazing credentials that we think will continue to move our research forward.”

Schontzer reported that Reijo Pera's salary will be $200,000, “making her the third highest-paid administrator on the Bozeman campus.”

Reijo Pera also told the reporter that she “'absolutely loved' Stanford, but felt 'it's kind of time to do the next thing…. There is potential to do more at Montana State.'”

The news article also provided some interesting history on Reijo Pera. Schontzer said, 
“In high school, Reijo Pera said she had no interest in science or college. But after graduating and working as a car dealership bookkeeper, she wanted more. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Superior to major in business. A class in human genetics for non-majors changed her life.”
Not mentioned in the Bozeman Chronicle story was a professional, Montana-Stanford linkage involving stem cell scientist Irv Weissman and Reijo Pera. In 2007, Weissman, director of the Stanford stem cell institute, hailed the hiring of Reijo Pera after playing a role in recruiting her.

Weissman has strong ties to Montana where he grew up and where he has a ranch.

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