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BioRegion Newsmakers: Mar 16, 2009

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CIRM Solution to Co-Chair Dilemma: Appoint to Board Both Art Torres, Duane Roth

Faced with a dilemma over who to name co-chair of the board that oversees the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, members of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee chose two individuals, but assigned them different duties.

The ICOC unanimously elected as statutory vice chair Art Torres, the outgoing chairman of the state Democratic Party, and appointed bylaws vice chair Duane Roth, president and CEO of Connect, a San Diego nonprofit organization that assists startup technology companies.

The deal was intended to satisfy all of California's top elected officials since Torres, a former state senator, was nominated by three elected officials of his party — Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Controller John Chiang, and Treasurer Bill Lockyer — while Roth was nominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

According to the California Stem Cell Report, an online news site focused on California stem cell policy and CIRM, the deal was engineered by the co-chairs of the board's CIRM Governance Subcommittee: ICOC director Sherry Lansing, CEO of an eponymous foundation focused on cancer research and a former CEO of Paramount Pictures; and Claire Pomeroy, dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine.

The board also approved a $75,000 part-time salary and health benefits for Torres, who will join the ICOC board. Roth, who until now has been an ICOC board member, has rejected a salary. However, Roth receives a $112 daily stipend from ICOC, given to members for attending board meetings, and pays him $14 an hour for meeting preparation.

At their March 12 board meeting, ICOC members defended the decision by saying both men bring different strengths to the committee.


NC Biotech Center CEO to Co-Lead Gov't Wasteful-Spending Panel

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center, has been named a co-leader of the state's new Budget Reform and Accountability Commission, created by new Gov. Bev Perdue.

"I expect my BRAC team to root out wasteful and unnecessary spending, hold government accountable for its appropriations and help ensure taxpayers are not funding ineffective or unsuccessful programs," Perdue said in a March 13 statement.

Tolson, a retired DuPont executive and a former secretary of the state's commerce, revenue, and transportation departments, two years ago left the cabinet of Perdue's predecessor, Mike Easley, to succeed Leslie Alexandre as top executive of the biotech center [BRN, July 2, 2007].

Joining Tolson as co-leader of BRAC is Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, vice president for corporate public affairs for Progress Energy, and chairwoman of the State Board of Community Colleges.

Perdue is expected to name other members of the 15-member commission this week.


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Burke Departs NC Biotechnology Center to Lead Biofuels Center of North Carolina

W. Steven Burke, senior vice president of corporate affairs for the state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center, has been named president of the state-funded Biofuels Center of North Carolina, effective April 3.

Burke has served since July 2007 as founding chairman of the biofuels center's board, and since August 2008 as the organization's acting president. A private nonprofit based in Oxford, the biofuels center addresses long-term biofuels development within the Tar Heel state by implementing policies recommended in the legislatively mandated North Carolina's Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership.

Burke joined the newly established North Carolina Biotechnology Center as its fifth employee in 1985, and has served since 1996 as senior vice president for corporate affairs.

He and former governor Jim Hunt co-chair the 34-member steering committee for the statewide project Growing North Carolina's AgBiotech Landscape. The project has assembled 120 North Carolinians statewide to chart the state's leadership, economic gain, and societal benefit from agricultural biotechnology over coming years. The group is expected to publish its results this summer.

During his tenure at the biotech center, Burke oversaw its communications, government-affairs and strategic-policy activities; and in 1987 helped the center establish the nation's first program to educate high school teachers and students about biotechnology. From 1988 to 1990, he directed the Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in Agriculture, which established America's first state-based framework for field trials of genetically engineered plants.

Burke also oversaw design and construction of the biotech center's headquarters, within Research Triangle Park; served as founding chairman of the internationally directed, NC-based Institute of Forest Biotechnology; oversaw the center's collaboration with the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia; and helped the center establish its regional offices in Greenville, Wilmington, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Asheville.

Since 2000, Burke has served as vice chair of the Biotechnology Institute, a national nonprofit organization that promotes biotechnology education. He serves on the board of directors of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and is a founding board member of the Bent Creek Institute based at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.


Tri Counties Bank Parent Names as Director Executive with Biotechnology Experience

Virginia Walker, currently the general manager of the high-tech consulting company Jamison Group, has been appointed to the board of directors of TriCo Bancshares of Chico, Calif., the parent company of Tri Counties Bank. The appointment took effect March 11.

Walker, a Chico resident, has more than 30 years experience in biotechnology and other industries, including service as a CFO in four public companies, according to the bank.

Tri Counties operates 32 traditional branches and 25 in-store branches in 23 California counties. The bank had just over $2 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2008.


St. Louis' RCGA Names Wachovia Securities CEO Econonics-Develompent Chair

Danny Ludeman, President and CEO of Wachovia Securities, has been named chairman for economic development on the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association's board of directors, and chair of the RCGA's economic development board of trustees. He succeeds Joe Imbs, regional chairman and St. Louis market president for US Bank in these roles.

The RCGA is the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for the 16-county, bi-state region anchored by St. Louis.

Ludeman joined a Wachovia predecessor in 1979, and has been in his current position since 1999. He previously served as financial advisor, board member and executive committee member of predecessor Wheat First Securities, and as president and COO of First Union Securities.

Ludeman is a member of Civic Progress, an organization of St. Louis-area CEOs, and serves on the boards of directors of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, and the University of Richmond.


NZBio Honors William Rolleston, Andreas Luxenburger

William Rolleston, production director and co-founder of South Pacific Sera, received the 2009 Ross Clark Distinguished Biotechnologist of the Year award, while Andreas Luxenburger of Industrial Research won the 2009 Young Biotechnologist of the Year honor during New Zealand's 5th annual NZBio Conference Awards.

Rollerston was honored for being a leader in his field, and for his application of biotechnology to improve quality of life. South Pacific Sera produces donor animal blood, serum, and protein products for use in therapeutic, cell culture, microbiology and immunology applications around the world.

Luxenburger was cited for his role in developing carbohydrate chemistry as a focus in the development of New Zealand's life-sciences industry. He leads a medicinal chemistry team that played a key role in the development of drugs for clinical trails at the Crown Research Institute entity Industrial Research.

The young biotechnologist award, supported by the Ministry of Research Science & Technology, is presented to scientists under the age of 40 whose work demonstrates potential for future leadership in biotechnology.

The awards event drew some 200 people, according to the National Business Review of Auckland.


The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.