Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 153 of the Wechsler-Reya Affair: Near Silence from All Quarters

California's $6 million, long-running courtship of a pair of Duke Blue Devils has apparently not been consummated.

But, like many other consummations, it is not easy to tell. Silence is the watchword on the part of those who know.

Last April, the California stem cell agency offered a $6 million signing bonus to Robert Wechsler-Reya, a researcher at Duke University, to move to La Jolla's Sanford-Burnham Institute. The award is part of a two-year, $44 million taxpayer-financed effort to help recruit scientists to California.

Sanford-Burnham is also providing “an extremely generous commitment of laboratory space, matching funds for equipment, additional support for relocation and research, and access to excellent core facilities,” CIRM grant reviewers said.

But the multimillion dollar enticement did not make the Duke pair jump with alacrity. Wechsler-Reya told the California Stem Cell Report last spring he had not made a decision. That situation seems to be unchanged today.

On Monday, we queried Wechsler-Reya about whether he and his wife, Tannishtha Reya, also a stem cell researcher, will take their work to Sanford-Burnham. So far he has not responded. CIRM remains mum as well, failing to answer our questions from Monday.

Andrea Moser, vice president for communications at Sanford-Burnham, however, did say something.
“At the current time, we do not have an update on the Wechsler-Reya recruitment.”
In April, the $3 billion stem cell agency tried to impose a June 30 deadline on the courtship. CIRM President Alan Trounson told directors that Sanford-Burnham had assured him the deal would be done by then.

One reason that directors wanted the matter settled was competition for more of the signing bonus cash. If the Duke researcher was not coming to California, more money would be available to help other institutions lure scientists to the Golden State. CIRM reviewers held a closed-door session last week to make decisions on those applications, but no news was forthcoming from that event.

So we are now into Day 153 of the Wechsler-Reya Affair. Stay tuned for all the developments.

(Editor's note: We started counting the days beginning with the Feb. 18 application deadline for the grant.)

(Wechsler-Reya photo)

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