Monday, April 21, 2014

California Stem Cell Directors Nearing Decision on New CEO and Salary

In less than 10 days, the $3 billion California stem cell agency could well have a new president to oversee what could be the last years of its life.

Directors of the unprecedented state enterprise have scheduled a full-day meeting April 30 in Burlingame to make a decision on a candidate and decide what he or she is worth. As usual, compensation will be touchy, at least in terms of how it is perceived by the public.

Most of the governing board's session will be behind closed doors. However, the actual vote on the president and the compensation package will occur in open session. The public will have a chance to comment on both matters.

The current president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM) , Alan Trounson, has a salary of $490,008. He has not had a pay raise since 2008, when he began work. Salaries of the public officials, however, are one of  those visceral issues with large numbers of the public, which is incensed by anything that they perceive as excessive. Predictably, Trounson's salary and others at CIRM triggered outrage. (See here, here and here.) The salary of the new president is also likely to be greeted with less than enthusiasm, regardless of how the agency dresses it up.

The task of the new CIRM CEO will be far different than his or her predecessors. In 2005, the first year of the agency's operation, the president faced legal and organizational challenges and had to devise a plan for spending $3 billion in a nascent field. Today, the agency is down to its last $600 million and is scheduled to run out of funds for new awards in less than three years. It has embarked on a “sustainability” effort focusing on the possibility of some sort of public-private financing. That effort so far has failed to generate any public result.

The agency currently subsists on cash from state bonds, money borrowed by the state. The possibility of asking California voters for more state borrowing is still on the table. However, California political realities suggest that it would be difficult, to say the least, to mount another successful bond election to provide more billions for the agency.   
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3 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:14 PM

    How much did CIRM pay the first president, Zach Hall? He was Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, so because his credentials were so much better than Trounson's, one would think that he would have been paid more than Trounson.

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    Replies
    1. Hall was paid $389,004 during his first full year (2006) at CIRM.

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  2. Anonymous9:03 PM

    I'm shocked. Did CIRM really think that Trounson, with no experience at a granting agency, and no US research experience, was worth more than Zach Hall? That's crazy. This is OUR MONEY!! CIRM, spend it on research, as you promised- imagine what could be done with the millions you paid to Trounson- it's enough for development of a stem cell cure. How dare they! Isn't there no fiscal oversight at all?

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