Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wish List on Criteria for New President of $3 Billion California Stem Cell Agency

Directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency today moved closer to possibly selecting a non-scientist as the new president of the nine-year-old research enterprise.

On a unanimous voice vote with no discussion, they approved criteria that did not make it mandatory that a scientist fill the position being vacated by Alan Trounson, a noted IVF researcher who is returning to Australia.

Instead, the governing board decided that candidates should have “experience with and personal commitment to medical and scientific research including familiarity with stem cell research.”

In terms of academic credentials, the criteria state that the new president have either or both an M.D. or Ph.D. degree or “equivalent industry experience or similar body of knowledge developed in professional roles.”

The criteria that was approved was not available to the public today on the CIRM Web site prior to board action. It had been altered on Tuesday night from an earlier version that was posted on the Web site.

Here is the text of what appear to be the only alterations (all additions) in the new criteria.
  • "Comfort working in the public sector, including an awareness of the need to comply with the laws that govern them, such as transparency, conflict of interest, and public accountability laws." 
  • "Experience dealing with, and commitment to, diversity and gender equality in the workplace."
It is ironic that the addition of the need for awareness of the need for transparency was added but the document was not available to the public prior to board approval.

CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas said yesterday that the agency is on verge of signing a contract with a search firm, Korn Ferry, to help in finding the new president. Directors have been emphatic about the need for speed in finding the new president.

Trounson has agreed to stay on for an unspecified period, but he could leave at any point. If he leaves before a new president is chosen, presumably Ellen Feigal, senior vice president at the agency, would pick up his duties temporarily, as she did earlier this year for three months.

She is also likely to be a candidate for the top spot, and if she is not selected after serving again on an interim basis, she might well decide to look for opportunities elsewhere.

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