Dozen Top Candidates To Be New CIRM President

CIRM 2.0Who might make a fantastic new CIRM President?

The California stem cell community is abuzz with this question.

This new President will not only lead CIRM today, but also in all likelihood will steer CIRM in its new incarnation after 2017, what I’ve called CIRM 2.0. At least that would be ideal.

CIRM has posted a position/candidate specification document here including a summary of the position that includes this statement:

The President of CIRM must be a nationally recognized leader with a vision, scientific credibility, and exceptional leadership skills, unassailable integrity, a keen appreciation of the financial and business aspects of scientific research, a sense of urgency and ability to deliver results, and a profound respect for the ethical issues involved in this project. He or she also must be comfortable operating in a very public capacity, adept at working with a board or other oversight body, have a good rapport with regulators, and sufficiently self-possessed to not be perturbed by criticism or controversy.

To summarize, this means the successful candidate must have great scientific stem cell chops, must be a proven leader (i.e. already held a high level leadership position elsewhere), ideally would have some business experience, being ethically unassailable (as much as possible at least), must already ideally have worked with the FDA, and not be easily spooked by public criticism or media storms. Almost everyone that I talked to thought that the person should be existing California stem cell scientist too for practical reasons.

The CIRM Presidential Search Committee tasked with finding people meeting these criteria, just met on Friday.

I’ve been talking behind the scenes with some folks in the know who are particularly interested in this question. They’ve thrown some names out onto the table, but of course not all of these people will necessarily be up for being considered and it’s not an all inclusive list. Update: To be clear, these names are NOT from me, but were suggested to me by others.

Candidates mentioned by stem cell community to me in alphabetical order by last name.

  • Jim Battey is Director of NIDCD at NIH, Former Chair of NIH Stem Cell Task Force, grew up in the Bay Area, went to Caltech.
  • Fred “Rusty” Gage is a Professor of Laboratory Genetics at the Salk, Past President of ISSCR, and a true pioneer in the stem cell field.
  • Larry Goldstein, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Director of the UCSD Stem Cell Program, Scientific Director, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, and another top international leader in the stem cell field.
  • Arnold Kriegstein is the Director of the UCSF Stem Cell Center and Professor of Neurology at UCSF.
  • Story Landis is Director of NINDS at NIH. She is a Neurobiologist, Former Chair of NIH Stem Cell Task Force in 2007, Graduate of Wellesley and PhD from Harvard.
  • Jeanne Loring is a pioneering stem cell researcher who is the Director of the Scripps Center for Regenerative Medicine.
  • Thomas Okarma is CEO of Asterias Biotherapeutics, and former President & CEO of Geron. Received his MD and PhD from Stanford plus on the faculty at Stanford from 1980-1985.
  • Mahendra Rao is Director at NIH of The Center For Regenerative Medicine and a long-time stem cell researcher. He received his Ph.D. from Caltech.
  • Brock Reeve, Director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Strong commercial sector experience and graduate of Harvard Business School.
  • Clive Svendsen is Professor in Residence of Medicine and Director of the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute. Former Director of University of Wisconsin Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.
  • Michael West, CEO of California-based stem cell biotech BioTime and long time leader in the stem cell field. Former leader of ACT and founder of Geron.
  • Keith Yamamoto is a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF. In addition, he is Vice Chancellor for Research, Executive Vice Dean of the School of Medicine, and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, UCSF.

I’m sure there are more worthy candidates than just these, but this list seems like a good place to start.

Who’s your pick?

2 thoughts on “Dozen Top Candidates To Be New CIRM President


  1. Why doesn’t CIRM promote from within? Drs. Ellen Feigal and Pat Olson have both done exemplary jobs and have outstanding qualifications. Make Dr. Feigal the President and promote Dr. Olson to cover more of what Dr. Feigal does now. Then you can even have a current CIRM Science officer take Dr. Olson’s previous position. These are great people, great scientists and great administrators who have devoted themselves to CIRM for many years. They deserve the recognition and they are more than capable of steering CIRM through its mission. After all, CIRM already has an excellent Chairman – Johnathan Thomas- and an excellent 29 member Board of Directors to support them.

  2. Pingback: Some More Thoughts on the Search for a New CIRM President | Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog

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