Committee Votes To Hire Hall as Interim President of Stem Cell Research Institute
The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on Tuesday voted 29-0 to hire neuroscientist Zach Hall as interim president of the institute, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 3/2). Hall will replace ICOC Chair Robert Klein, who has been acting CIRM interim president.
Currently, Hall is the senior associate dean for academic research at the University of Southern California's Keck Medical School and director of its neurogenetic institute.
From 1997 to 2001, Hall served as the executive vice chancellor at the University of California-San Francisco, where he developed the plans for the 43-acre Mission Bay campus in San Francisco as part of a 300-acre biomedical research park.
Hall led NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes from 1994 to 1997, which at the time employed more than 700 scientists. The institute's budget increased from $650 million to $740 million during Hall's tenure.
In addition, Hall was a cofounder and former CEO of the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company EnVivo Pharmaceuticals, and he has served on its advisory board as well as those of three other biotech companies. EnVivo is not involved in commercial stem cell research (California Healthline, 3/1).
Hall has accepted a one-year contract with a salary of $389,004. In addition to interim president, Hall also will serve as CIRM's senior scientific adviser, a position he will keep if a permanent president is hired before his contract expires.
Hall said he was approached about applying for the permanent president position, which has a six-year contract, but he said he held reservations about entering a contract of that term (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 3/2). However, Hall said he has not ruled out applying for the permanent president position.
Hall's first responsibility is to write a plan for issuing training grants for ICOC consideration at the committee's next meeting on April 7 (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/2). Hall's regular responsibilities include hiring CIRM staff and overseeing programs (Sacramento Bee, 3/2).
Hall said, "This is an extraordinary project from almost any point of view: biology, science, political, economics. The idea of being on the ground floor to set up the framework is an opportunity of a lifetime."
Hall said his role was "to get things started, to set up the organization ... to get it ready for the first-rate people who will surely be interested" in leading CIRM. Hall added, "I will raid every place I can get to get the best possible people. This is a huge job, and there is almost no framework of people in place on the scientific side" (Los Angeles Times, 3/2).
Philip Lee, a former federal health official who praised Hall, said CIRM's president should not earn more than $290,000, the highest NIH salary. Lee said taxpayers might question the decision if they are "paying people more than they need to be paid" (Sacramento Bee, 3/2).
Klein said voters who approved Proposition 71 approved a "salary line that would push science forward" (Los Angeles Times, 3/2).
In related news, the Chronicle reports that ICOC is "all but guaranteed" to miss its informal May deadline for issuing its first research grants, but Klein said a program to train scientists interested in stem cell research could receive funding by July.
The training program would issue grants "on the order of $15 million to $25 million a year" to some not-for-profit research institutions and hospitals, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/2).
ICOC on Tuesday also declined to hold hearings on a petition seeking salary caps, more open meetings and tougher conflict-of-interest rules. ICOC instead voted to have Klein respond to the petition's requests at future hearings.
Charles Halpern, the lawyer who filed the petition, said ICOC's response was "inappropriate" and said the board should have agreed to hold separate hearings for each issue raised in the petition (Sacramento Bee, 3/2).