Oversight Committee To Vote on Interim President for Stem Cell Institute
The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on Tuesday will vote on whether to name Zach Hall, a neurobiologist and veteran administrator, interim president of the institute, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1). Hall on Monday was endorsed unanimously by a subcommittee of the 29-member ICOC, which "virtually guarantees" he will be named to the position, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1).
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 (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 3/1).
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 (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1). The institute's budget increased from $650 million to $740 million during Hall's tenure (Elias, AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/1).
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 (Sacramento Bee, 3/1). The Union-Tribune reports that EnVivo is not involved in commercial stem cell research (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1).
If elected, Hall would replace ICOC Chair Robert Klein, who currently serves as acting CIRM interim president (Sacramento Bee, 3/1).
The interim president will be responsible for hiring CIRM staff and establishing policies for "a precedent-setting" agency "that is being watched by other states and countries," the Union-Tribune reports (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1).
However, AP/Newsday reports that Hall's "tenure could be short" because the company hired to find a permanent president hopes to hire someone by the first week in June (AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/1).
Evan Snyder, who leads embryonic stem cell research at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, said Hall is a "no-nonsense kind of guy, a rigorous scientist who is not going to let any kind of program or grant get funded if he doesn't think it is up to snuff."
Larry Goldstein, a stem cell researcher at the University of California-San Diego, said that Hall has "shown he knows how to do a balancing act, dealing simultaneously with rapid scientific progress against diseases while also making sure rigorous standards are in place, while also dealing with conflicting priorities and administering grants" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1).
Public interest lawyer Charles Halpern on Monday said that Hall was an "excellent choice" but questioned his ties to biotechnology companies and urged the ICOC presidential search subcommittee to ensure that Hall complies with NIH's new conflict-of-interest standards. The subcommittee did not act on the request, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 3/1).
Hall declined comment pending the committee's vote (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1).
At the meeting Tuesday, ICOC also will address the creation of guidelines to select a permanent site for CIRM. The committee will "consider responses" to a citizens' petition seeking stricter conflict-of-interest and open-meeting rules and two lawsuits filed last week seeking to stop the research program (Sacramento Bee, 3/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.