Santa Monica, CA — Dr. Zach Hall‘s announcement today that he will step down as president and chief executive of the state’s stem cell institute two months earlier than expected is troubling, said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
Hall announced in December that he would retire at the end of June and a search for a successor is underway. In a letter today to members of the stem cell oversight committee and his colleagues at the stem cell institute Hall cited health concerns as a factor in the decision. He has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
But Hall also said the decision to leave was prompted by the “exceedingly contentious and occasionally personal tone” of a stem cell working group meeting last week. “It is in both my best interest and that of the Institute for me to step down at this time,” Hall wrote.
“Hall’s health should be a primary concern,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR’s Stem Cell Project Director, “but clearly there are substantial disagreements at stake here. It’s never a good sign when an agency’s chief executive leaves after a policy dispute.”
FTCR noted that during the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine‘s existence, tension has surfaced from time to time between Hall and Robert Klein, chairman of the board’s oversight committee.
“Hall brought outstanding scientific leadership to the stem cell institute,” said Simpson. “Much of what has been accomplished to this point is because of him. He had planned to move on to well-deserved retirement in June. I’m sorry and worried that he felt it necessary to leave now.”
Under Hall’s leadership the institute drafted its scientific strategic plan and has approved around $130 million in research and training grants. The next phase of grants are earmarked to build shared research facilities. One of the subjects at the contentious facilities working group meeting last week was the process to develop specifications for grants to build major research facilities around the state.
Proposition 71, passed overwhelmingly in 2004, created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to sell $3 billion in bonds over 10 years to fund stem cell research. With the bond financing, $6 billion of taxpayers’ money is at stake.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a Santa Monica, CA based nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. Visit our website at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and our Stem Cell Project page at www.StemCellWatch.org.