Monday, November 10, 2008

Penhoet Resigns as Vice Chairman of CIRM

The vice chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, Ed Penhoet, has resigned from his post, but CIRM announced Monday afternoon that he will remain as one of the 29 members of the board of directors.

The statement by CIRM came only hours after the California Stem Cell Report said that Penhoet "denied scuttlebutt in the California stem cell community that he is leaving the board." However, the item also said incorrectly that he denied he "is stepping down as its vice chairman." That item was based on a one-sentence response from Penhoet that did not address all the questions we asked him on Saturday. (More on that below.)

We also queried CIRM early this morning on the matter, asking Don Gibbons, chief communications officer, for comment on reports that Penhoet was stepping down. No response was forthcoming from Gibbons on the matter.

CIRM's press release, which has not yet been posted on its website, said Penhoet was stepping down because of "the time constraints of this leadership position."

CIRM said:
"However, Penhoet has accepted the appointment by Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi to one of the board’s member positions designated for the life sciences commercial sector."
Penhoet was not quoted in the CIRM press release on the leadership change, which said that the co-founder of Chiron will continue to head the CIRM IP Task Force.

The move clears the way for nomination of a new vice chair by the state's constitutional officers, such as governor and lieutenant governor. It is likely that CIRM Chairman Robert Klein will make suggestions for possible nominees. Former CIRM board member Tina Nova has been mentioned as a candidate, but she said earlier today that no one has approached her about serving in that capacity. She also said she has "no plans to return to the CIRM board."

The full CIRM board must vote on the vice chair, selecting from the nominees. The post carries a salary of up to $332,000 annually. Penhoet did not accept a salary, raising a question whether the next vice chair will. If so, it also raises the possibility that Klein, who also has not accepted pay, will seek the $508,750 salary for which he is eligible. He has repeatedly said he may seek a salary at some point.

Some of you may wonder about some of the details involved in preparing our original item below that reported incorrectly that Penhoet said he was not stepping down. Our email query to Penhoet on Saturday said,

"I am planning on writing an item that will say that California stem cell scuttlebutt has it that you are resigning as vice chair of the ICOC. Is that correct?"

Penhoet's response:

"I have no intention of leaving the board, David."

We then asked,

"I may be parsing this too finely, but do you intend to imply that you would remain on the board but give up the vice chair position? Thanks."

Penhoet did not respond to that question. We notified him early this afternoon that our original item had been posted but have received no further communications.

CIRM was queried at 7:35 a.m. California time today about the subject but has not responded to us as of this writing.

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