California Embryonic Stem Cell Agency Helps Executives, Not Patients

Bioethics   |   David Prentice, Ph.D.   |   Jul 5, 2011   |   11:00AM   |   Sacramento, CA

Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times takes California’s stem cell agency (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, CIRM) to task for the exorbitant salaries paid to its executives, while other California agencies cut back and the state wrestles with covering an enormous budget deficit.

Investment banker Jonathan Thomas was elected the new chairman on June 22, beating out cardiologist and entrepreneur Frank Litvack for the position. Thomas will take a salary of $400,000 to serve as part-time board chairman, joining CIRM’s president Alan Trounson ($490,008 salary last year) as two of the most highly-paid state employees.

As the California Stem Cell Report pointed out at the time, political and financial pressure had a great deal to do with Thomas winning the chairmanship, not so much science.

Thomas and others at CIRM have indicated that they are simply misunderstood, and need better public relations. They are advertising for a new public relations director (salary up to $208,520 per year) to help correct their problem. They have also indicated that, despite a decided lack of results from supporting embryonic stem cell and cloning (nuclear transfer, SCNT) research, they will ask the taxpayers of California to pony up more funds for the research after their original $3 billion allotment runs out. Notably, many of their recent stem cell grants aimed at producing results have NOT gone to embryonic stem cells, but to adult stem cells, which are the proven winners for patients.