Thursday, December 10, 2009

Keirstead Leaves Co-Directorship at UC Irvine Stem Cell Center

A California scientist who has been a media star and super-salesman for human embryonic stem cell research has quietly stepped down as co-director of the stem cell research center at UC Irvine.

The announcement of Hans Keirstead's resignation was made Nov. 24 in an internal UCI email by Susan Bryant, vice chancellor for research at the campus. She said that Keirstead (at left) was resigning as co-director “to devote his full efforts to his ground-breaking research program.” Keirstead currently is listed as an associate professor at the university.

Keirstead was featured on the “60 Minutes” television news show in 2006, which said of him,
“If paralyzed people are ever going to walk again, it might be because of the scientist in this story.”
Keirstead's media career includes a five-minute video on the YouTube Web site of the California stem cell agency. Keirstead's research is also the basis for Geron's much vaunted but now delayed attempts to conduct the first-ever clinical trial for an hESC therapy.

Keirstead was featured in an article in the November issue of Esquire magazine, in which he seems to speak disparagingly of the peer review process for research. The article by M.A. Woodbury said,
“This go-round, he (Keirstead) wants to increase velocity. No dribbling out a paper here and there and waiting for his colleagues' comments.”
The article reportedly incensed some stem cell researchers in California.

Keirstead did not respond to our query yesterday afternoon about his resignation. But he did comment to Gary Robbins of the Orange County Register, who posted an item on Keirstead at 9:13 p.m. last night.

Robbins quoted Keirstead as saying,
“I decided to just concentrate on my work. I’ve got another clinical trial coming up, my lab is really busy and I’m coming up for a full professorship, and I need to get my (research) papers out.”
Bryant's email in November said Peter Donovan, who was also co-director of the UCI stem cell center, will assume the full directorship.

Bryant, who is a member of the CIRM board of directors, did not respond to our queries yesterday but told the Orange County Register,
“It was time to have one boss instead of two there. It’s better for organization and efficiency. Some people are more comfortable working with one boss instead of two.”
The Register said Donovan and Keirstead “helped UCI raise almost $60 million in Proposition 71 research money in recent years, and Keirstead played a pivotal role in raising money for a $60 million stem cell research building that’s scheduled to open next summer.”

CIRM's Web site shows that Keirstead won a $2.4 million grant from CIRM in 2007.

We began our inquiries into Keirstead's resignation yesterday afternoon after the California Stem Cell Report received anonymous comments that more was involved in Keirstead's resignation than his desire to return to fulltime research. That information could not be confirmed yesterday.

Cathy Lawhon
, media relations director for UC Irvine, said,
“We do not respond to anonymous blog posts.”
In response to a query, Os Steward, director of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UC Irvine and also a CIRM director, said Keirstead was not fired.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly said that Keirstead and CIRM Chairman Robert Klein briefed Congress on stem cell research. It was, in fact, another Robert Klein. )
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1 comment:

  1. For stem cell research we should have more openness in testing and funds availability to the organizations. Stem cell treatments are going play a major role and change way of medical sciences in the near future.