Alan Trounson, the Australian researcher who has headed California’s $3 billion stem cell institute for nearly 6 years, is stepping down to be closer to his family.
Trounson, 67, a leading in vitro fertilization researcher with biotech industry experience, was considered a huge catch when he agreed to leave Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, to become president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in late 2007. He oversaw the agency’s shift from training, basic research, and new buildings to translational projects aimed at moving discoveries to the clinic. Overall, the agency has disbursed $1.9 billion in grants. During his tenure, CIRM also went through various controversies, including concerns about conflicts of interest and the abrupt departure of two of its leaders.
“I have loved working at CIRM and being part of something truly pioneering – a revolution in stem cell science and medicine – but ultimately it came down to a choice between CIRM and a life including my family,” Trounson stated in a press release yesterday. He has a 12-year-old son in Australia and three older children there, according to an e-mail he sent to the California Stem Cell Report, a blog that closely follows the agency.
Jonathan Thomas, chair of CIRM’s board, praised Trounson in the same release as “a remarkable leader” who has “has led us through some challenging times, [and] been the driving force behind some truly innovative ideas,” including a tissue bank for induced pluripotent stem cells and a planned network of clinics for testing experimental treatments. “He has helped establish us as a world leader in the field of stem cell research. We are truly grateful for his vision, his expertise and his leadership,” Thomas stated.
Trounson leaves at a challenging time for the agency, which will run out of its funding from state bonds in 2017 and will need to find new sources of support. According to the press release, Trounson has agreed to stay on for an unspecified period of time while the CIRM board searches for his successor.