Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pera Leaving Golden State for Down Under

Internationally reknown stem cell researcher Martin Pera, who holds $7.4 million in California stem cell grants, is leaving the state to return to Australia to head the stem cell program at the University of Melbourne.

Martin Pera
USC Photo
In a March 7 memo to staff at USC's Keck School of Medicine, Dean Carmen Puliafito said that Pera will assume his new job in Australia on June 1 but plans on remaining "actively engaged" with colleagues at USC during the 2011-12 academic year.  Pera joined USC in 2006 to launch the school's stem cell program.

Pera was the first director of USC's stem cell effort, which began following the passage of Prop. 71 in 2004, the measure that created the $3 billion California stem cell agency. A good portion of Pera's motivation for coming to the state was widely believed to be the availability of generous stem cell research funding here. During Pera's tenure, USC has garnered $72 million in CIRM grants, ranking 5th among state institutions.

Pera is the principal investigator on three grants from the California stem cell agency. It is not clear how those grants will be dealt with. By law, CIRM cannot finance research outside of California. We have queried CIRM and Pera concerning the status of the research.

(Pera responded following the publication of this item, saying that the grants are under discussion by the various parties. He also cited personal as well professional reasons for returning to Australia.)

Pera, a former colleague of CIRM President Alan Trounson when they were both in Australia, has personal ties to Australia and has wanted to return, one researcher told the California Stem Cell Report today.

USC's Puliafito, a member of the CIRM governing board, said an international search is underway for Pera's successor. USC is likely to seek help from CIRM's $44 million recruiting fund.

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