Thursday, May 01, 2014

'As Soon as Mills Sat Down' -- CIRM Chairman on the Stem Cell Agency's New CEO

Officials at the California stem cell agency were extraordinarily taciturn during April as its governing board worked its way through selection of a new president.

Kevin McCormack, the senior director for public communications, would not even disclose the number of candidates being considered in the semi-final or final round, seemingly innocuous figures. On Wednesday, at least one reason for his reticence became apparent.

The 29-member governing board had only one candidate to consider at their final, closed-door meeting in Burlingame, CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas said. Their Presidential Search Subcommittee had, earlier this month, screened seven semi-finalists and eliminated all but C. Randal Mills, more commonly known as Randy Mills.

“As soon as Randy Mills sat down we knew we had the person we were looking for.” 

Thomas cited Mills experience, “his sharp intellect and keen analytical mind” and told an emotional story about a 14-year-old leukemia patient involved in clinical trials for Prochymal, a stem cell treatment developed by Mills' then firm, Osiris Therapeutics.

Thomas went on to say,
“Ours is a complex organization. Not only do we fund ground-breaking scientific research, but we are also a state agency. Our mission is to find therapies and cures for chronic disease and injury as quickly as we can and, as a public agency, we operate in a fishbowl. The position of president requires a rather unique set of skills to be able to handle all aspects of the job. 
“We are also at a challenging point in our life. It is now almost ten years since the passage of Proposition 71, the voter-approved initiative that created us. In that time we have made extraordinary progress, helped fund 10 projects that are in clinical trials and have several more starting clinical trials this year. But our work is far from done. We have many other research projects that are making great progress and we want a new president who will help ensure that we are able to move those, as quickly as possible, from the lab and into clinical trials in people. 
“Randy is that person. He has the scientific knowledge, the organizational skills, the business acumen and the personal qualities that this position needs.”

For a very brief look at Mills' views on change and accomplishment, see here.

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