Difficult Departures

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The San Francisco Chronicle

Zach Hall, president and top scientist for California’s stem cell institute, announced last week that he plans to step down within six months. He will be sorely missed.

Hall, 69, brought both vision and pragmatism to the fledgling California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). On a board with many combative voices, he showed calm strength and a willingness to listen — even to humble members of the taxpaying public, who are merely funding the $3 billion initiative. We hope that his successor will bring the same mix of qualities to this important position.

There’s been a lot of turnover at the institute lately: deputy vice chairwoman Mary Maxon also announced her resignation last week, and three other staff members left earlier this year. Clearly, it’s an arduous place to work. It’s bond money remains tied up in litigation and taxpayers’ groups have loudly protested the institute’s attempts to seek a reasonable profit-sharing balance with private industries. Then there’s the little matter of expectations: for its $3 billion investment, the public wants fast cures, and there’s no way the institute will be able to provide them.

Those great obstacles come with great potential rewards, however, and we can only hope that Hall’s successor will bring as much vigor and intelligence to see them through.

Consumer Watchdog
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