Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scientist/Parkinson's Advocate With Biotech Background Appointed to California Stem Cell Agency Board

A retired San Diego scientist with a background in the biotech industry was named this week to the 29-member governing board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

David Higgins
Parkinson's Association photo
David Higgins, who is also president of the San Diego Parkinson’s Association, was appointed by State Controller John Chiang, replacing Joan Samuelson, who resigned from the board earlier this year.  Samuelson had been a member of the board since 2004.

Higgins fills a slot designated for a patient advocate for Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011.

The stem cell agency press release yesterday on the appointment emphasized Higgins’ personal and family perspective on the affliction. Chiang was also quoted as saying,
“As a trained molecular biologist, his involvement in drug development and business operations places him in a unique position, understanding both science and process.”
Higgins has worked at Invitrogen, Chiron and Idun Pharmaceuticals. Most recently he was executive vice president for business development and head of U.S. operations for BioMedica, Inc., a UK-based gene therapy company.

Higgins is currently a business/scientific advisor to iDiverse, Inc., a Del Mar, Ca., a gene technology firm that markets to biopharmaceutical firms as well as companies involved in fuel ethanol and industrial enzymes.

Higgins brings a perspective not found elsewhere on the board because of a variety of community service activities.

He serves on the executive committee of the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology in San Diego. He was once president of the board of the ACLU for San Diego and Imperial counties. He also served as foreman of the San Diego County Grand Jury, a 19-member citizens watchdog group, in 2006-7..

Higgins said in the CIRM press release,
“One thing I feel strongly about is that, yes I’m the Parkinson’s patient advocate on the board, but first and foremost I’m an advocate for everyone and I want to make sure that we spend our money wisely, and that we use our resources to identify and nurture the most promising stem cell projects across all target diseases.”
Higgins earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from the University of Rochester followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

The agency's board now has three vacancies on it left by the departure of Marcy Feit, Michael Goldberg and Robert Birgeneau. 


  1. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Congratulations, Dr. Higgins! Looking forward to your patient/scientist perspective on the ICOC board.

  2. Are you able to tell if someone will have Parkinson's before it manifests? My mother had it and I have been diagnosed with "drug induced Parkinson's" a couple of years ago. I am 58.

  3. Ms. Murray -- The California Stem Cell Report is not qualified to answer your question. Your best bet is to ask your physician.


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