Bond financier Jonathan Thomas says he would liquidate his holdings in Advanced Cell Technology of Santa Monica, Ca., an unsuccessful applicant for CIRM funding, if he is elected chairman of the California stem cell agency.
In a May 23 letter to the CIRM board, Thomas, chairman of the Saybrook Capital, also of Santa Monica, said he raised funds for ACT early on and still holds a "small portion" of the company's stock.
Other than that, he said he has no other "actual or potential" conflicts.
Thomas' letter did not discuss the holdings of his firm, which deals in municipal bond financing, the only real source of cash for the $3 billion California state stem cell agency.
Thomas, who is also a lawyer, cited his public finance expertise and said it would be helpful in the event of a ballot measure seeking additional funding in 2014 or 2016. Outgoing Chairman Robert Klein, a real estate investment banker and attorney, has touted a proposal that could run as high as $5 billion.
Thomas said he has had "direct experience as an underwriter, financial advisor or issue in billions of dollars of bond financings."
He also proposed hiring Rob Church of Hogan Lovells, a Los Angeles law firm. He said that Church has had many years of experience working with the FDA on clinical trials, a costly area on which CIRM is pinning much hope.
Thomas noted that he has a long term interest in science, majoring in biology and history at Yale and earning a doctorate from Oxford studying the role of disease in British expansion into East Africa.
Frank Litvack, a Los Angeles cardiologist, also has a wide range of business interests but says he would divest any that pose a conflict of interest.
In a May 25 letter to the CIRM board, Litvack detailed his business background, much of it reported earlier, along with current activities including his role as an "informal adviser" to a firm that is based on research by a CIRM grant recipient, Eduardo Marban.
He said does not have "an informed opinion" on whether the job of chairman requires full or parttime work, "absent spending time within the organization." He said his other commitments are "elastic" and would devote the time necessary to do the job.
Litvack called himself a "consensus builder." He said the chairman should lead the areas that "fall outside of the president's statutory responsibility including aspects of finance related to agency funding and philanthropy, public communications as well as optimizing relationships with industry and international collaborators."
Litvack said he has raised several hundred millions of dollars for companies but that his most fulfilling role has been as a clinician.
Regarding cell therapy, Litvack, who is listed on the staff at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, said he is on the board of Pervasis Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Ma., whose product is an endothetial cell therapy. He said that for two years he has been an unpaid advisor to Capricor Inc., of Los Angeles , a cardiac stem cell company. He said,
"The company is based on the research of Dr. Eduardo Marban, a CIRM grant recipient ($5.6 million) and director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart institute. I have advised them with regards to clinical trial strategy and the shift from autologous to allogeneic stem cells."