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BioRegion Newsmakers: Sep 18, 2009

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Missouri Director of Economic Development Linda Martinez Resigns, After Reports of Clash with Gov. Jay Nixon

Linda Martinez resigned this week as Missouri's economic development director, following a stormy nine months in which she was reported to have clashed with Gov. Jay Nixon over her performance.

"I am sorry we have been unable to meet and therefore we have been unable to discuss and reconcile our different views on how to move the state that we both love forward," Martinez wrote in her resignation letter to Nixon, a Democrat who took office this year promising to step up job attraction efforts in biotech and other higher-wage industries.

Martinez resigned days after a local news account spoke of tension between her and Nixon: "Insiders say she and Nixon have clashed and that he has been unhappy with her performance. The rumors were so specific today that one source said Martinez was told she could put whatever spin she wanted on leaving, but that she needed to do it before the legislative veto session begins on [Sept. 15]," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its Breaking Schmooze blog.

“I appreciate the work Linda has done over the first eight months of this administration. Her efforts to create jobs and to give the department increased economic development tools, including the successful passage of a bi-partisan jobs bill, will continue to pay dividends to the people of Missouri," Nixon said in a statement, adding that Martinez will return to her private law practice.

Nixon also said the deputy director for economic development, Katie Steele Danner, would succeed Martinez on an interim basis while the state launched an immediate search for a permanent director.

Nixon named Martinez, then a partner with the law firm Bryan Cave lawyer, to the position soon after he took office in January. She was the first woman to hold the $120,000-a-year position [BRN, Jan. 12]. But her confirmation was delayed by the state Senate after she balked at meeting with state Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), who accused Nixon’s office of trying to intimidate him into supporting Martinez’s appointment.

“I appreciate the work Linda has done over the first eight months of this administration," Nixon said in a statement. "Her efforts to create jobs and to give the department increased economic development tools, including the successful passage of a bi-partisan jobs bill, will continue to pay dividends to the people of Missouri. I wish her success in her return to private practice, where she will continue to be an asset to this state."

Nixon used the letter to announce a series of meetings with business leaders across the state, dubbed the Show-Me Business Tour: "It is clear that we need to take our effort to create jobs to the next level."

Jorge Riopedre, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis, told the Post-Dispatch that his group was "extremely disappointed in Gov. Nixon" over Martinez' departure, which he termed a "firing in political dressing."


Hutchinson Center Board Member, Biotech Investor Tapped for Ambassador-Level Positions

President Obama has announced plans to nominate two professionals with life sciences support backgrounds to ambassador-level positions requiring confirmation by the US Senate:

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Cynthia Stroum was nominated for ambassador to Luxembourg. A native of Seattle, Cynthia Stroum has been an angel investor in over twenty successful biotechnology firms, as well as technology and retail, start-up companies, including Starbucks Coffee. For more than 30 years, she has been active in civic and charitable activities, serving on the board of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and as the founding chairman of the board of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Stroum holds a BA degree in public relations and journalism from the University of Southern California.

Jide Zeitlin was nominated for US Representative to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform, a position that carries the rank of ambassador. An investor who has invested in private biotechnology companies globally, Zeitlin is a former executive at Goldman Sachs, where he was elected a partner in 1996. He earned an AB in economics and English magna cum laude from Amherst College, and an MBA from Harvard University.


Former FDA Chief Counsel for Criminal Enforcement Joins Skadden's Health Care and Life Sciences Practice

Jennifer Bragg has been named a partner in the health care and life sciences practice of the law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Based in the law firm's Washington, DC, office, Bragg will counsel pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology manufacturers about US Food and Drug Administration regulatory and compliance issues.

She also represents companies in civil and criminal investigations by federal and state governments, as well as in product liability litigation involving FDA-regulated products. Skadden said in a statement it represents 20 of the top 40 pharmaceutical companies, and 10 of the top 40 medical device companies, as well as numerous emerging biotechnology and health care companies.

Bragg previously served in the FDA and life sciences practice of the law firm King & Spaulding, and was based in its Washington office. From 1998 to 2003, she served as associate chief counsel for criminal enforcement in the FDA's Office of the Chief Counsel, providing advice to the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Bragg earned a JD degree with honors from the University of Maryland in 1996, and a BA from the same university in 1993.


Wall Street Veteran Mitchell Stern Joins Morgan Joseph's Healthcare Investment Banking Group

Mitchell Stern has joined investment bank Morgan Joseph as a managing director in its healthcare investment banking group, where he will cover the medical device and healthcare information technology sectors

A 20-year Wall Street veteran, Stern has for the past 15 years covered middle market companies in the healthcare industry.

Before joining Morgan Joseph, Stern was a managing director and head of healthcare and life sciences investment banking for SMH Capital, as well as managing director and head of healthcare and life sciences at Glocap Advisors, where he formed their healthcare investment banking group. He previously held positions with Needham & Co., Schroder & Co. (now Wertheim Schroder), Salomon Brothers, and Deloitte & Touche in their M&A department.

Stern holds an MBA in finance from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and a BA degree from Franklin & Marshall College. Stern, who is a CPA, was employed for two years as a senior accountant at Ernst & Whinney, a predecessor to Ernst & Young.


The Scan

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek Full Vaccine Approval

According to the New York Times, Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking full US Food and Drug Administration approval for their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Viral Integration Study Critiqued

Science writes that a paper reporting that SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally integrate into the host genome is drawing criticism.

Giraffe Species Debate

The Scientist reports that a new analysis aiming to end the discussion of how many giraffe species there are has only continued it.

Science Papers Examine Factors Shaping SARS-CoV-2 Spread, Give Insight Into Bacterial Evolution

In Science this week: genomic analysis points to role of human behavior in SARS-CoV-2 spread, and more.