California officials nominate new board chairman for stem cell agency


California Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Gov. Jerry Brown today nominated Jonathan Thomas to succeed Robert Klein as chairman of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee -- the governing board -- of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the state’s $3-billion stem cell research funding agency.

As the job is defined at the moment, the chairman of the ICOC heads up the board and participates in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

Thomas is a founding partner in the bond investment group Saybrook Capital in Santa Monica. Lockyer’s nomination letter said that Thomas’ “experience as a public finance investment banker, attorney, board member of various government agencies, and board member of the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California, as well as his lifelong background, education and interest in biology and medical sciences, makes him exceptionally well-suited to fill the role of ICOC Chair and to lead ICOC into the next stages of its ongoing pursuit of cures through stem cell research.” The California Stem Cell Report blog reported earlier this week that he was thought to be Klein’s choice for the job.


Klein, who founded the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine by spearheading Proposition 71, which created the agency, announced recently that he will step down from the position on June 23. He had previously planned to do so when his term ended in 2010, but concern about a possible conflict of interest reportedly scuttled the candidacy of a likely replacement.

State Controller John Chiang and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom may also make nominations for the position. The governing board will elect a chairman from among the nominees.


Klein’s tenure as the chairman of CIRM’s governing board hasn’t always been smooth. Last year, Los Angeles Times reporter Jack Dolan reported on some of the controversy surrounding the agency. Earlier in the year, Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik took Klein and CIRM to task for promoting a culture of arrogance. This March, California state controller John Chiang wrote a letter to CIRM’s board asking that the role of the chair be revised to an oversight, and not an executive, position.

For more on CIRM, look at this collection of articles about regenerative medicine from the Times, and CIRM’s website.