USC rolls out the cardinal carpet for the new president of California’s stem cell agency

CIRM President C. Randal Mills (left) (Photo by Gerald Devotta)
CIRM President C. Randal Mills (left) (Photo by Gerald Devotta)

“I will be beating the better, faster drum as long as there are patients that need to be treated,” said C. Randal Mills, the newly appointed president and chief executive officer of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), at a June 10 public appearance at USC.

Researchers, industry leaders, patient advocates and curious members of the public gathered to hear Mills share this vision at the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

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.

“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.

“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 him 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.”