Friday, July 11, 2014

Scripps CEO gets unanimous vote of no confidence from faculty; Reports $21 million deficit

The following two article offer some insight on internal conflicts that, with any hope, could tear the corporation apart before it destroys the Briger Forest for new labs for its profit-driven animal testing and genetic engineering research. Corruption and turmoil comes as no surprise from an operation whose previous CEO, Richard Lerner, was a scientists for the tobacco industry...

Scripps Faculty Call For Ouster Of CEO Michael Marletta

Scripps President and CEO Marletta
Credit: David Freeman/Scripps Research Institute
Proposed merger with USC angers researchers

United in dissent, faculty at biological research powerhouse Scripps Research Institute are reportedly calling for the resignation of the organization’s president and CEO, chemist Michael Marletta.

At issue is a June 16 announcement that Scripps is considering merging with or being acquired by the comparatively wealthy University of Southern California, in order to stabilize Scripps’ increasingly shaky financial outlook.

Scripps faculty have vehemently opposed this option. In a June 20 e-mail sent to Marletta and Scripps’ trustees board chair Richard A. Gephardt, 10 faculty department chairs and the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies expressed “deepening concern for the future of our beloved institution.”

In the e-mail, faculty members say they are confident Scripps can and should remain independent. “We believe that the proposed path with USC would destroy much of what has been built and what we and others in the community value so much,” the group writes.

Marletta took over leadership of Scripps from longtime president and CEO Richard Lerner in January 2012. He is also a member of C&EN’s advisory board. Marletta served as chair of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to Scripps.

Scripps, a private research organization with campuses in San Diego and Jupiter, Fla., had a $398 million operating budget in 2012. It relies mostly on grants and, to a lesser, extent philanthropic donations for its funding. In 2013, 85% of its revenue came from the National Institutes of Health, according to credit rating agency Fitch Ratings.

But in recent years, competition for NIH funding has increased as the federal agency’s budget has stagnated. Meanwhile, Scripps is projecting a $21 million deficit for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30. 

“The funding climate has never been more challenging for biomedical research institutes, universities, and medical schools,” Marletta tells C&EN.

A chemistry faculty member, who agreed to speak to C&EN anonymously, says that faculty in all departments at Scripps, including chemistry, formally gave a near unanimous vote of no confidence in Marletta.

The source sides with those calling for Marletta’s resignation, saying Marletta’s vision of the future of Scripps and those of the faculty “no longer align.”
Marletta adds that further discussions to address the conflict are imminent. “As we move forward, representatives from the faculty, administration, and board are coming together to thoughtfully review a range of options for the institute’s future,” he says.
Chemical & Engineering News

Scripps ‘drama’ no drag on work
Now a consultant, Marcus says money, exec turmoil to pass.
By Tony Doris Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
   JUPITER — While officials at The Scripps Research Institute’s California headquarters wrestle with red ink and faculty dissent, a consultant for the biomed giant’s Jupiter campus attributes the turmoil to leadership change and says its medical and economic impact remain strong.
   “As in any transition, when a business or a nonprofit goes into the next generation, there’s turmoil,” said former County Commissioner Karen Marcus. She is now a consultant, and her clients include Scripps. “It’s incredibly successful — I think most people don’t realize how successful.... We need to get through this drama, so people can get back to paying attention to the science 
   The U-T San Diego newspaper reported this week that Scripps, though it has a $300 million endowment, faces a $21 million deficit.
   As the National Institutes of Health trims research spending, and as pharmaceutical companies spread their research investments to China 
and Singapore, Scripps and other U.S. research centers are seeing grants that support high-level talent shrink.
   Another challenge is the fact that it can take 10 years for a medical discovery or invention to gain Food and Drug Administration approval, meaning that income from patents and other advances takes a long time to come to fruition.
   Scripps’ permanent home only opened in Jupiter in 2009.
   Making matters worse, in recent weeks Scripps leaders dropped the news on faculty that a merger was in the works with the University of Southern California — a surprise sold to some as a great deal because of the $15 million a year it would bring — only to have them learn it was 
meant to plug a leak in the institute’s budget.
   Faculty leaders in Jupiter and La Jolla are calling for the ouster of Michael Marletta, who replaced Jupiter campus founder Richard Lerner as president and CEO in 2012.
   Scripps’ chairman, former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, has announced an advisory committee “to facilitate our ongoing holistic review of all possible opportunities.”
   One insider said Marletta’s “not going to go away without a lot of discussion” but that there’s no question communication needs improvement, especially since there’s little to stop star researchers from jumping ship and taking their grants with them.
   County Commissioner 
Hal Valeche said Thursday that faculty members told him that there was angst over the institute’s future but no imminent danger to the Jupiter labs, in which the state and county invested $579 million in incentives and other commitments.
   According to Marcus, the $21 million deficit should be seen in relative terms. Scripps has a budget of $400 million, she said. “It’s like the county: We either do budget cuts or go to our surplus. They probably have done both.”
   Meanwhile, the Jupiter facility has met hiring expectations and has been “incredibly successful” in winning grants and conducting research on cancer, aging, autism and other conditions, she said.
   As for communications, Marletta took the place of someone who was an expert at that, Lerner, she noted. The new chief executive will work with the committee to improve it, Marcus said.
   So intense is the atmosphere, though, that some faculty members are refusing to serve on the committee with him.
   “It’s a big campus. Where do you start?” Marcus asked. “Some folks were talked to, but I don’t know if enough were.” 

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