TTDC says it plans no funding for TN Bio Assn.
By Milt Capps
Published Wednesday, October 21, 2009 12:37 pm
Tennessee Technology Development Corporation management says it "has no confidence" in Tennessee Biotechnology Association to promote biotech and related industries.
In a report to his board last week, TTDC President and CEO Eric Cromwell said TTDC staff have concluded that TBA's "current management and board leadership" cannot cure "leadership and strategy issues" that TTDC perceives impeding TBA's progress.
However, in a telephone interview during his travel this morning, Cromwell told VNC that he and TBA Interim Chairman Bob Acuff have in the past few days agreed to resume discussions regarding how, as Cromwell put it, the TBA board can demonstrate its ability to "put TBA on a more productive, more strategic path."
Cromwell essentially confirmed today that TTDC's critical reference to TBA board leadership flows largely from TTDC's disappointment about the recent resignation for the Board chairmanship of Leslie Wisner-Lynch, a former biotech industry executive who had been drafted by the TBA board for the leadership role, but who then apparently determined the job came with too little latitude and support for far-reaching organizational change.
At the time of Wisner-Lynch's resignation, Acuff, who soon afterward again took the TBA reigns as interim chairman, said in a VNC interview that TBA was unclear on how to become most relevant to its members, as well as concerned about retaining TBA's autonomy.
Cromwell (at left) said this morning TTDC would consider TBA requests for changes in TTDC's approach to some issues, but indicated there would be no lessening of TTDC emphases on strong leadership and performance.
VNC confirmed with both parties that months ago, in response to TTDC concerns, TBA wrote TTDC to reiterate its goal of serving as the leading advocacy group for the life sciences sector in Tennessee. TBA offered no details in its letter about how to achieve that goal.
After receiving that letter, TTDC executives participated in one or more TBA meetings, but perceived no meaningful progress.
The standoff apparently worsened in the weeks leading up to Wisner-Lynch's resignation from her TBA post after only a few months' service, during which she had undertaken a strategic-planning effort that TBA leaders have acknowledged is still needed. (Wisner-Lynch simultaneously resigned from the TBA board and from TBA membership.)
TTDC has provided some financial support to enable TBA to exhibit during a key life-sciences industry exposition, but has accorded more significant financing for a program being done in collaboration with the Memphis BioWorks Foundation.
Recent VNC requests for updates from TBA regarding its search for a new chairperson have evoked either no response or general assurances of progress from Acuff, with no details.
VNC recently asked local bio-entrepreneur Joe Cook Jr. whether he had considered joining TBA and whether he would serve as chairman, and he cheerily declined to comment. Cook is founder of Mountain Group Capital and is a principal in a firm that is a TNInvestco finalist. ♦