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With an Alameda County judge deciding whether the measure that formed California’s new stem cell research institute is constitutional, 72 applicants for the complex job of general counsel are going to have to just wait by the phone. The question is whether the state has the authority to issue the bonds that would finance the agency. The court will hear cross-motions for judgment on pleadings Nov. 17. Applicants submitting resumes for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s general counsel position are vying for a shot at wrestling with some of stem cell research’s most daunting questions in law, science, politics and business. Lawyers expect the unique job to be fascinating, challenging and stressful, covering cutting-edge bioscience and intellectual patent law issues, while deftly juggling strongly opposing views. As exciting as the job may sound, it remains in limbo while the institute grapples with pending lawsuits that are holding up bond money meant to finance its existence. Voters last year passed Proposition 71, a $3 billion bond measure designed to establish the institute to dole out grants to fund stem cell research. Two state court suits, recently consolidated in Alameda County Superior Court, challenged the institute’s right to invest taxpayer money. If the suits are successful, Prop 71 would be found unconstitutional and the institute would dissolve. A federal judge last Monday dismissed a suit seeking to establish rights for the embryos used in stem cell research, but it could be revived in another court. While the issues are battled in court, the institute has made do with a legal assistant on staff and a contract with Remcho, Johanson & Purcell, which billed $250,000 for interim GC services between January and July. In the meantime, the institute is scrambling to secure alternate sources of funding. “We are waiting for interim funding before we can make a hire,” said an agency representative who asked not to be named. “We’re looking at philanthropic individuals and organizations willing to buy a bond anticipation note in the neighborhood of about $50 million.” According to the institute’s job posting, which appears on places such as craigslist.com and biospace.com, the GC would be responsible for developing the institute’s legal policies, procedures and programs. Other duties include making sure the organization complies with corporate, legal, compliance and regulatory matters. The ideal applicant would combine an in-depth knowledge of IP law with a broad business background — a big job, according to lawyers. “It’s not quite like searching for a general counsel in a tech company,” said Stacy Taylor a partner in Foley & Lardner’s San Diego office. “I would guess it’s more of a hybrid with experience at a tech company, but also experience dealing with essentially publicly funded research.” Frederick Dorey, a special counsel in the life sciences group at Cooley Godward, said that the position will require good negotiating skills and a cool head. “You’ll be dealing with activists, people who are passionate about these issues,” he said, adding that a key skill will be the ability to deal calmly with widely divergent views. It remains to be seen how much money the future general counsel will make. Final compensation is being worked out with the governing board, the institute representative said. Salaries have been determined by the competitiveness of the candidate pool and the individual expertise and background each individual brings to the job, the representative said.

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