Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CIRM Presidential Search: Battey Approached

One of the directors of the California stem cell agency has approached federal stem cell chief James Battey to see if he is once again interested in seeking the presidency of the state's $3 billion research effort.

Nature magazine reported today that Battey, chair of the NIH stem cell task force, had been approached. He was a candidate for the position in 2005 but dropped out of consideration.

In a piece by Meredith Wadman, Nature reported that Battey "has been excused from all stem cell related work" at the NIH. He remains as director of the National Institute on Deafness.

Nature, which did not say which CIRM director had approached Battey, wrote:
"The search committee hasn't discussed a shortlist 'with any real seriousness,' member Joan Samuelson, founder of the Parkinson's Action Network, told Nature on 29 January. 'We need to think about what talents and what skill set we need in the new president. And we should be clear about that before we write a job description,' she said."
The magazine continued:
"Battey is highly respected within the NIH as an able administrator who rarely makes trouble, but who will speak frankly when necessary. During the controversy over tightened conflict-of-interest rules at the agency, Battey said bluntly that if it adopted the stringent set of rules thatwas first proposed, he would resign (see Nature 435, 397; 2005). The rules were loosened before they were finalized.

"Battey's absence from his NIH stem-cell duties became publicly apparent at a 19 January Senate committee hearing on human embryonic stem-cell research. There, Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, testified on behalf of the agency. She is now acting chair of the Stem Cell Task Force. It has also emerged that Battey will not be attending a meeting of stem-cell funding agencies being held in Singapore this week."
When Battey withdrew from consideration for the CIRM presidency in May 2005, he told the California Stem Cell Report that the position at CIRM was "exciting and important" but that his current position at NIH was also an "important opportunity."

We queried Battey to see if he has more to say currently on the subject. He did not.

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