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C. Randal Mills to head California's stem cell agency

The governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced Wednesday that it was appointing C. Randal Mills as the stem cell agency's new president and chief executive officer.

Mills, the former chief executive of Columbia, Md.-based Osiris Therapeutics Inc., was among seven finalists for the position, according to an agency news release.

During his 10-year tenure at Osiris, Mills oversaw the first commercialization of a stem cell drug, Prochymal, which is used to treat acute graft-versus-host disease in children. The deadly disease is a complication of bone marrow transplants.

"I am so incredibly honored to be selected to be the next leader of CIRM,” Mills said Wednesday. “Above not just any other state but above every other country, California is going to take the lead in regenerative medicine.

"The promise I make to you, the board and the people of California is that we’re going to work relentlessly for the benefit of the patients and the people of California,” he said.

Mills, who earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology and cell science and a doctorate in drug development from the University of Florida, has been a member of CIRM's grant review board for the last five years.

Jonathan Thomas, who head's the agency's governing board - the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee - said Mills was selected in part for his experience in raising money for clinical research and working with regulatory authorities.

The board also wanted a leader who would “take stock of our wonderful programs, come and evaluate what we’re doing right and what could benefit from adjustments,” Thomas told reporters at a news conference.

“He’ll bring a fresh set of eyes and will help work with our staff on our directions going forward. We could not be happier,” Thomas said.

Mills will replace Alan Trounson, who stepped down after six years to spend more time with his family in Australia, the agency said.

Prior to Osiris, Mills held several executive titles at RTI Biolgics Inc., and was a founding member of that company's predecessor, the University of Florida Tissue Bank. He has also served as a voting member of the National Institutes of Health and AIDS Research Advisory Council.

CIRM was established in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act.

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