Key stem cell study backer will retire

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Times Staff Writer

The scientist credited with making California’s voter-created stem cell institute a reality and recasting its often-hyped promises into realistic goals announced his retirement Wednesday as its first president.

Neuroscientist Zach W. Hall was named interim president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in March 2005, four months after voters passed Proposition 71, authorizing $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research.

From the beginning, Hall, then 67, said he was not interested in the six-year term the institute’s board had in mind. But he later agreed to stay on as president after litigation stalled the bonds and brought the fledgling institute to a near standstill, which made it difficult to attract other candidates.


Hall and other institute officials are now confident that an appellate court will uphold a favorable ruling from a Superior Court judge. The institute’s board, using a state loan and private donations, is gearing up to offer its first major research grants early next year.

During Hall’s tenure, the institute drew up ethics guidelines for egg donation and for reviewing grant applications, while also developing a long-range plan.

Bob Klein, chairman of the institute’s oversight committee and the author of Proposition 71, said that he expected a smooth transition because Hall won’t leave for at least another six months. Still, some lamented his departure.

John Simpson of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights praised Hall for his “tremendous contribution,” including the goals set forth in the 10-year plan he crafted and approved Thursday by the institute’s board.

“He more than anyone else has brought a sense of scientific realism to the process to counter the campaign hype of Prop. 71,” Simpson said.