Thursday, November 21, 2013

California Stem Cell CEO Search: More Names Surfacing­

While the $3 billion California stem cell agency awaits help from an executive search firm, more names are being mentioned as possibilities to become the new president of the organization.

Keep in mind that these are names that the public is bandying about, not any sort of official CIRM directors' list, which may not exist at this point.

UC Davis researcher Paul Knoepfler triggered the discussion of possibilities this week when he posted a list of a dozen names that people in the field have suggested might be considered. As a result, Knoepfler ­received suggestions from his readers of additional possibilities.

They include Ellen Feigal, the No. 2 person at the agency, and Arlene Chiu of Cedars-Sinai, who was chief scientific officer at the agency until she left in 2007.

Knoepfler also emphasized that the dozen names he listed do not constitute any sort of CIRM list. If some readers may think he is floating trial balloons for the agency, that does not appear to be the case.

Knoepfler's entry into this obviously speculative arena, however, is worthy. Bringing specific names into the discussion could well help sharpen both the focus in the search and the understanding of the type of trade-offs that are likely to be necessary. It also may stimulate comments from people in the stem cell field about what is needed in a new president. Those comments can either be forwarded to the agency or laid out in public commentary either here or on Knoepfler's blog.

As for the executive search firm, the agency hopes to have a contract signed by Dec. 16. But it is certain that some agency board members have already put out tentative feelers to suitable persons.

On Oct. 16, CIRM President Alan Trounson announced his plans to depart and no doubt is increasingly focused on returning to Australia and his family, especially as the holiday season approaches.

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