Here's a question: As the nation's leading, independent nonprofit life sciences research institutes pursue the quest for cures and answers to the major medical challenges of our time, how high a salary should be paid to the person in charge?
There isn't an easy answer. Certainly, it's not the corporate world, so pay levels aren't commensurate with profits and productivity, per se. But similar to corporations, leaders of research institutions must have stellar resumés, to be sure, and a track record of success.
A new report by Genetic Engineering News (using data from Guidestar.org) compiles a top 20 list of the salaries these groups paid their leaders. The numbers are based on the most recent year reported (which can vary among nonprofits) so some are from the 2010 calendar year, others from 2011, or fiscal year 2010-2011. Some interesting trends emerge all the same. Certainly, none of the 20 men on this list make multimillion salaries as their drug industry corporate counterparts do. But the top four institute heads, for example--led by the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute CEO John C. Reed--pulled in well over $1 million for their most recent reported annual salary.
Has Reed earned his salary? A peek at the institute's website reveals its researchers are generating plenty of media attention. Two Sanford-Burnham institute scientists based in La Jolla, CA, are currently favored for Nobel prizes. The institute has also generated coverage of its research findings and milestones in areas including obesity, skin cancer, stem cells and Alzheimer's disease.
And then there is 7th-placed Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which was launched less than a decade ago in Cambridge, MA, funded by the largess of Los Angeles-based philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The center, which unites a cadre of researchers and their work at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, often generates breaking news in genetics research. Recently, the Broad formed an antibacterial and antiviral research partnership with AstraZeneca ($AZN), reflecting a sophisticated approach to life sciences research and development that acknowledges the drug industry's participation can help pinpoint those efforts. Lander's salary doesn't crack the million-dollar mark, but it's not that far away, according to the Genetic Engineering News report.
J. Craig Venter's salary may be among the most unexpected. The founder, chairman and president of the eponymously-named J. Craig Venter Institute places only 9th out of 20 on Genetic Engineering News' list. Considering his reputation as a gene sequencing/synthetic biology pioneer, observers may have expected him to land at least a few notches higher. Venter, known for arrogance, hubris and not necessarily working well with others, is one of the first people to sequence the human genome, and have his genome sequenced. He also successfully built the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell, an accomplishment credited with making a genetic engineering industry possible. With that kind of track record, his institute is, and will be, certainly worth watching, and he could have arguably grabbed a much higher salary for himself. He's also made at least one other list--FierceBiotech's 25 most influential people in biopharma today. -- Mark Hollmer (Twitter | email)
Read on for the full top 20 list as compiled by Genetic Engineering News, or click here for the original report.
Name: Michael A. Luther, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President, David H. Murdock Research Institute
Salary: $240,601, FY 2010–2011
Name: Kenneth Stuart, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President, 1976–2012; President Emeritus, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute
Salary: $308,150, FY 2010–201
Name: Bertold Sakmann, M.D., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: Inaugural Scientific Director & Research Group Leader, Digital Neuroanatomy, Max Planck Florida Institute; Emeritus Scientific Member, Max Planck Institute of NeurobiologySalary: $335,592, CY 2010
Name: Leroy (Lee) Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President & Co-Founder, Institute of Systems BiologySalary: $382,844, CY 2010
Name: Charles P. Emerson, Jr., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: Director & Senior Scientist, Boston Biomedical Research InstituteSalary: $401,136, FY 2010–2011
Name: Richard M. Myers, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President and Director, HudsonAlpha Institute for BiotechnologySalary: $418,101 in CY 2010
Name: Richard A. Houghten, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: Founder, President and CEO, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular StudiesSalary: $472,407, FY 2010–2011
Name: Richard Woychik, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President and CEO, The Jackson LaboratorySalary: $541,735, FY ending May 31, 2011
Name: Thomas J. Hudson, M.D., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President and Scientific Director, Ontario Institute for Cancer ResearchSalary: $546,805.99, CY 2011
Name: Christopher J. Elias, M.D.
Title/Institution: President and CEO, PATH
Salary: $556,287, CY 2010 (filed Oct. 13, 2011)
Name: Leland (Lee) H. Hartwell, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President and Director (1997–2010), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterSalary: $634,183, FY 2010–2011
Name: J. Craig Venter, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: Founder, Chairman, and President, J. Craig Venter InstituteSalary: $645,929, CY 2010
Name: Bruce Stillman, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President, Cold Spring Harbor LaboratorySalary: $751,839, CY 2010
Name: Eric S. Lander, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: Founding Director & Director of the Genome Biology Program, Broad InstituteSalary: $818,876, FY 2010–201
Name: R. Sanders Williams, M.D.
Title/Institution: President, J. David Gladstone InstitutesSalary: $862,505, CY 2010
Name: William R. Brody, M.D., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President, The Salk Institute for Biological StudiesSalary: $951,743, FY 2010–2011
Name: Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President & Scientific Director, Translational Genomics Research InstituteSalary: $1,063,599, FY 2009–2010
Name: Robert Tjian, Ph.D.
Title/Institution: President, Howard Hughes Medical InstituteSalary: $1,143,070, FY ending Aug. 31, 2011
Name: Richard A. Lerner, M.D.
Title/Institution: President & CEO, 1991–2012; Researcher, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, 2012-present, The Scripps Research InstituteSalary: $1,370,328, FY ending Sept. 30, 2010
Name: John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D.
Title/Institution: CEO, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research InstituteSalary: $1,476,406, FY 2010–2011
Source: Genetic Engineering News