California's stem cell oversight committee should focus on finding a competent, hands-on administrator to replace retiring Dr. Zach Hall as president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
"Members of the search committee should avoid the temptation of seeking a 'big-name' scientist known for his or her discoveries," said John M. Simpson, FTCR Stem Cell Project Director. "The emphasis must be on the individual's skills in scientific management and administration."
Focusing on big names could result in hiring a figurehead rather than an executive committed to making the stem cell institute work in the public's best interest, FTCR said.
The presidential search committee meets at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in San Francisco. In a letter to Robert Klein committee chairman, Simpson said that Dr. Hall had exemplified the qualities necessary for the position during his two years in the job.
"The next president must be an extremely competent hands-on scientific administrator, who can set up and maintain transparent and accountable management systems," Simpson wrote. "He or she must be able to interact with the public, state officials, legislators and the media in a transparent, honest and accountable fashion."
In the past there have been suggestions that the president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) might continue to maintain a research laboratory as part of the president's role. This should not be allowed, FTCR said.
"The presidency of CIRM is more than a full-time job, "said Simpson.”A person trying to manage CIRM's activities and conduct meaningful research simultaneously would do justice to neither activity."
Finally, while there are a number of individuals on the ICOC itself who have performed admirably in their positions as scientific administrators, FTCR said CIRM's interests would be best served if the search does not consider them and looks beyond the oversight committee.
Dr. Hall announced at the stem cell oversight committee's December meeting that he wished to retire within six months.