Bond Financier Elected to Chair California Stem Cell Agency

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has elected southern California investor Jonathan Thomas to be its next chair. Thomas will succeed Robert Klein, the real estate investor who spearheaded to the drive to create the public-funded agency and has led it for its first 6 years. The CIRM board faced a decision between Thomas and Frank Litvack, a cardiologist and medical device entrepreneur. According to the California Stem Cell Report blog, the vote was 14 to 11.

In remarks before the board's vote, Thomas emphasized his experience in finance as a crucial qualification for the job.

With California in an indefinite fiscal crisis, CIRM may have to find sources of funding other than the state bonds that have allowed it to so far provide $1.25 billion in grants and loans for stem cell research, Thomas said. Thomas noted that he was a premed biology major at Yale University before turning to finance, and said he'd always hoped to return to biology if the right opportunity presented itself. "This is that opportunity," he said.