The leader of California's innovative stem cell funding agency, C. Randal Mills, was selected by its board to replace outgoing President and CEO Alan Trounson in April 2014.
Mills, 42, takes over the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) as it enters the final years of the 2004 voter-approved, $3-billion venture to fund projects exploring ways to develop and apply stem cell research in a broad range of medical treatment. Although his predecessor was said to be leaving to spend more time with his family in Australia, Trounson was immediately hired by one of the companies CIRM had awarded millions of dollars to, re-enforcing the perception that the agency had a serious conflict-of-interest and cronyism problem.
Mills has a Bachelor of Arts degree in microbiology and stem cell science from the University of Florida, where he also received a Ph.D. in drug development in 1999. His dissertation was entitled, “Integrating Biotechnology and Pharmaceutics: Development of the Biocompatable Allograft as an Orthopedic Drug Delivery System.” Mills also completed an internship in clinical pathology there.
Mills was on the founding management team of the University of Florida Tissue Bank, Inc., the predecessor company to Regeneration Technologies, Inc (RTI), from 1994 to 1998. He was manager of biomedical services.
He was an executive officer of RTI from its formation in 1998 until 2004, serving in several leadership positions. His jobs included vice president of business development and vice president of operations and R&D. Mills was the inventor of the company’s core technology, BioCleanse, the first system approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the sterilization of human tissue for transplantation.
Mills left RTI in 2004 to join Osiris Therapeutics as president and CEO. The small Maryland biotech company specializes in developing products using bone marrow stem cells. He is credited with winning a $224.7 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense for the development and stockpile of a stem cell countermeasure for radiological warfare. He also led the commercialization of five stem cell products, including Prochymal, the first stem cell drug for treatment of a sometimes fatal complication of bone marrow transplants in children. He resigned in December 2013, reportedly for personal reasons.
Mills is also chairman of the nonprofit Tissue Banks International (TBI), a network of eye and tissue banks and the largest provider of ocular tissue in the world. He holds seven patents.
Mills served as a grant reviewer for the CIRM for five years prior to his selection as president and CEO.