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USC welcomes new president of California’s stem cell agency

C. Randal Mills outlines four principles that will guide the agency’s decisions about upcoming projects

Cristy Lytalby Cristy Lytal

Researchers, industry leaders, patient advocates and curious members of the public gathered to hear the newly appointed president and CEO of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) share his vision at the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

“I will be beating the better, faster drum as long as there are patients that need to be treated,” said C. Randal Mills at a public appearance on June 10. As the new leader of CIRM — established in 2004 to dispense $3 billion in voter-approved dollars to fund stem cell research in California — Mills outlined four simple principles to guide the agency’s decisions about which projects to support.

CIRM CEO Randal Mills

C. Randal Mills (Photo/courtesy of C. Randal Mills)

“The first test is that it has to accelerate the development of a stem cell therapy to a patient,” he said. “Part two is that it has to increase the likelihood of success of a stem cell treatment. The third criteria is that there has to be an unmet medical need. And then fourth is [that it has to do so] efficiently.”

Mills, who has been a member of CIRM’s Grant Review Board for the past five years, was previously the president and CEO of Osiris Therapeutics, the first company to commercialize a stem cell drug used to treat children with a potentially lethal complication of bone marrow transplantation.

[Mills] is a well-respected scientist whose experience and expertise will ensure we will continue to be a world leader in stem cell research.

Jonathan Thomas

“We developed a saying at Osiris, which is: ‘Work like someone’s life depends on it because someone’s life depends on it.’ And that is also what we do here at CIRM,” he said.

Prior to Osiris, Mills held leadership positions at RTI Biologics Inc., the University of Florida Tissue Bank and the American Association of Tissue Banks’ Standards Committee. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services appointed Mills as a voting member of the National Institutes of Health and AIDS Research Advisory Council. He holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and cell science and a PhD in drug development from the University of Florida.

Mills is replacing Alan Trounson, who stepped down from the CIRM presidency after six years to spend more time with his family in Australia.

“To say we are delighted to have Randy take over as president is an understatement,” said Jonathan Thomas, chairman of CIRM’s Governing Board. “He is a well-respected scientist whose experience and expertise will ensure we will continue to be a world leader in stem cell research.”

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