Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Stem Cell Person of the Year Award: Nominees Now Named

Voting is underway around the world for the semi-finalists for the Stem Cell Person of 2013 award, and one of the top staff members of the California stem cell agency is in the running.

She is Patricia Olson, executive director of scientific activities for the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM). Olson is the only member of the unique agency's staff to have been nominated for the award, which is made by UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler. The award carries a $1,000 prize that comes out of Knoepfler's pocket.

Olson's name caught my eye because in many ways she represents the entire, tiny staff of the nine-year-old agency. Only a little more than 50 people work at the San Francisco enterprise, which is an unusual combination of science, academia, business and government. In its early years, the number of employees was even smaller, less than it would take to staff your average Burger King. Yet, the agency has given out $1.9 billion, acted on thousands of grant applications and overseen 570 awards. More are to come.

From the agency's start, many worried that the size of the staff would not be adequate to keep up, a question that can still be raised justifiably. But the CIRM staff has forged on, scrutinizing grantee work with more care than the mighty NIH, as we have noted in the past.

Olson is one of the few longtime veterans of the agency, joining it in 2006. She has acquired a set of skills and institutional knowledge that has well-served both CIRM and the stem cell field. Like many of us, she has a bit of a sharp edge at times. But it is exercised all for the sake of focusing diligently on stem cell science and efficiently executing the agency's mission.

Only 12 semi-finalists will emerge from the current voting, which concludes Oct. 16. Many worthwhile candidates are on the list. But as a representative of the CIRM staff, a vote for Pat Olson could provide a big high-five for her and all the “stem cellists” at their King Street headquarters and all the work that they have done -- not only this year, but for the last nine years.

You can cast your votes by going to this page on Knoepfler's blog. Sphere: Related Content

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