A Split Decision On No. 2 Stem Cell Post

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state Democratic Party chief Art Torres and a Republican biotech
executive, Duane Roth, are chosen by the California Institute for
Regenerative Medicine’s governing board.

Sacramento, CA — Settling a simmering partisan spat, leaders of California’s $3-billion
stem cell research effort Thursday divided its No. 2 leadership post
between the outgoing state Democratic Party chief and a biotech
executive backed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a pair of unanimous votes, the California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine’s governing board split the vice chairmanship in two and then
filled the spots with Democrat Art Torres and Republican Duane Roth.

The solution was largely brokered by Sherry Lansing, the former
Paramount Pictures chief executive who chairs the board’s governance
committee. She said adding two leaders to the board hierarchy seemed
like a win-win, because both men are qualified, although in different
ways — Torres with his political savvy, Roth with his biotech

"Here’s our high-class problem: We have two extraordinary
candidates," Lansing said before the vote during a meeting of the board
at the Sacramento Convention Center.

"The possibility to have them both is simply irresistible," added Leeza
Gibbons, the former "Entertainment Tonight" host named to the panel by

But some biotech analysts have questioned the board’s move.

"I won’t be joining you in singing ‘Kumbaya,’ " said John Simpson of
the Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog nonprofit group. "I don’t
think it’s the way to go."

Simpson said later that the move seemed a political gesture so the
governor, who had bucked the Bush administration to become a champion
of stem cell research, could "save face."

Torres served for two decades in the Legislature before assuming the
state party chairmanship a dozen years ago. He held chairmanships of
the Assembly Health Committee and the Senate Joint Committee on Science
and Technology. Backers say he was instrumental in securing early
funding for AIDS research.

He currently sits on the boards of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and
the Los Angeles-based organ transplant foundation One Legacy.

Torres appeared to have the inside track for weeks, with the backing of
such Democratic heavyweights as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts
wrote an impassioned endorsement letter.

The possibility of Roth also playing a role sprang up at the suggestion
of board member Claire Pomeroy, UC Davis vice chancellor for human
health sciences and dean of its medical school.

Roth has served for more than two years on the stem cell board
alongside Pomeroy and Lansing, making a name as an amiable and
respected colleague. He has spent three decades in the pharmaceutical
and biotechnology industries.

The board approved a $75,000 annual salary for Torres. Roth, chairman
and CEO of La Jolla-based Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp., said he would
not need a salary.

Consumer Watchdog
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