California Stem Cell Research Agency President Steps Down Now

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 23, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 23
, 2007

Sacramento, CA ( — The head of the California state agency that will ultimately spend about $3 billion on human cloning and embryonic stem cell research stepped down last week. Zach Hall indicated he would resign from the position at the end of the month rather than in June, as he previously planned.

Hall has been battling cancer and the "exceedingly contentious and occasionally personal tone of the battle within the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine about how to spend the taxpayers funds state voters authorized.

He said the bitter meetings led him to conclude that "it is in both my best interest and that of the Institute for me to step down at this time," according to an AP report.

John Simpson of the Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which has been one of the leading critics of the agency, said the cancer had been a factor. But he told AP that "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," he added.

In March, the panel set up under Proposition 71 awarded its second round of grants which total $74.5 million would provide funds for years’ worth of work for 26 scientific teams across the state.

They all involve the contentious research that destroys human life, which upsets pro-life advocates.

Robert Klein, chairman of the CIRM bragged that the grants "make us the highest funder of human embryonic stem cell research in the world."

The state proposition was approved in 2004 with 59 percent of state residents voting for it. Since then it, and the panel it created, have been tied up in court by pro-life and taxpayers groups who say both are unconstitutional. They also say the panel is unaccountable and has violated several state laws.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled last April against the groups and an appellate court in San Francisco upheld that ruling last month. An appeal to the California Supreme Court is expected.

Because of the court battles, the institute has been limited in the amount of grants it can give because it can’t sell bonds to raise funds as they may be worthless if the court ultimately overturns the proposition or the panel.

As a result, private donors and foundations have funded the panel and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized a $150 million loan.