Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cardiologist/Entrepreneur Eyed for Stem Cell Agency Chair

Frank Litvack
Cedars Photo
A Los Angeles cardiologist who is also described as a "serial entrepreneuer" is under consideration as a possible candidate for chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

He is Frank Litvack, former CEO of of Conor Medsystems Inc. of Menlo Park, Inc., which was purchased by Johnson & Johnson for $1.4 billion in 2006. Conor developed what Business Week called a "new breed of stent."

Several sources told the California Stem Cell Report that Litvack is one of several possibilities to replace Robert Klein, who is resigning effective June 23, as chairman of CIRM.

Four statewide officials are scheduled to make nominations for the post on Monday. At one point earlier this year, it appeared that there would be an effort to have the four nominate one person. However, that attempt has fallen by the way. John M. Simpson, stem cell project director at Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said,
"There will definitely be choices."
The 29-member CIRM board is expected to vote on the candidates at its meeting June 23 in San Diego. The CIRM directors Evaluation Subcommittee is expected to schedule a closed door meeting to interview candidates, who will make public presentations to the full board probably at the June meeting. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to comment.

The California Stem Cell Report disclosed yesterday that Jonathan Thomas, chairman of the Saybrook Capital of Santa Monica, Ca., is also under consideration as a candidate. Thomas is reportedly backed by Klein, although Klein has denied that via a spokesman.

Thomas is believed to support the current dual-executive structure at CIRM with overlapping responsibilities involving the chair and the president. The structure has been strongly criticized and has created public conflict in the past. Litvack reportedly favors a role that would place the chair instead in more of an oversight role.

Litvack has a slight connection already to the CIRM board. He and Sherry Lansing, chair of the CIRM Governance Committee, both serve on the Health Board of Advisors at RAND, a Santa Monica, Ca., thinktank.

In 2005 while Litvack was head of Conor, Business Week wrote about how the firm provided stock options to some doctors evaluating its technology, which was well-regarded.

The magazine said,
"Yet Conor's technology is difficult to assess, in part because some doctors helping to evaluate the devices have received stock options from the company. Among the 14 doctors who sit on Conor's scientific advisory board and are participating in clinical trials of its stent, three received consulting fees and five have received options, according to documents obtained by BusinessWeek.

"Such relationships are a growing source of concern in the medical-device industry, drawing increasing scrutiny from regulators and medical ethicists. Still, Wall Street is smitten with Conor's potential."
According to Bloomberg Business Week, Litvack is managing director of Calmedica Capital LP and a director of Nile Therapeutics Inc. and Pervasis Therapeutics Inc. From 1986 to 2000, he co-directed the Cardiovascular Intervention Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He has also founded Progressive Angioplasty Systems Inc., and co-founded itherX Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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