CA Controller Appoints Director of Research Institute to
Governing Board of State’s Stem Cell Agency
SACRAMENTO—State Controller Betty T. Yee today named the director of a Southern California research institute to the board that governs the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).
Dr. Pat R. Levitt is the chief scientific officer and director of The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as well as director of the hospital’s program in Developmental Neurosciences and Neurogenetics. Dr. Levitt is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a senior fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard. He is WM Keck Professor of Neurogenetics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California – with a focus on the environmental and genetic factors that affect brain development and children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Levitt earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago, and his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship in neuroanatomy at the Yale University School of Medicine. He was appointed to the CIRM position reserved for the executive officer of a California research institute previously held by Dr. Bert Lubin. Dr. Levitt’s term will run until February 21, 2027.
“I look forward to seeing the perspective Dr. Levitt’s extensive study of the role of genetics in brain development adds to future board deliberations,” said Controller Yee, the state’s chief fiscal officer and chair of the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee that oversees CIRM finances.
CIRM was created after voters approved Proposition 71 in 2004 to accelerate stem cell treatments for patients with unmet medical needs. CIRM is overseen by an Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC) composed of patient advocates, biotechnology industry professionals, and research leaders.
In November 2020, Californians voted by a narrow margin to approve Proposition 14 – the Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative – to build on the progress already made through CIRM. The initiative authorizes $5.5 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund additional grants, expands ICOC from 29 to 35 members, strengthens oversight, and adds a working group focused on improving access to treatments and cures. Under Proposition 14, the State Controller now appoints six ICOC members.
Controller Yee’s other CIRM appointees include Elena Flowers, PhD, RN, associate professor of physiological nursing at the University of California, San Francisco; Ysabel Duron, president of the Latino Cancer Institute; Parkinson’s disease patient advocate David R. Higgins, PhD; Dr. Linda Boxer, vice dean of the Stanford School of Medicine; and Dr. Anne-Marie Duliege, originally appointed by then-Controller John Chiang and reappointed by Controller Yee.
CIRM issued its first round of funding in 2006, with a focus on training scientists and building new research facilities. By 2009, the Institute began investing in potential future therapies made possible by the initial awards. CIRM-supported research led to a cure for severe combined immunodeficiency. A 2019 independent report showed the Institute had created tens of thousands of jobs and produced billions of dollars in revenue for the state. In March 2020, ICOC voted to redirect CIRM’s remaining $5 million from the first round of grant funding to support stem cell research of cures for or vaccines against COVID-19.
As the chief fiscal officer of California, Controller Yee is responsible for accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources. The Controller has independent auditing authority over government agencies that spend state funds. She is a member of numerous financing authorities, and fiscal and financial oversight entities including the Franchise Tax Board. She also serves on the boards for the nation’s two largest public pension funds. Elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018, Controller Yee is the tenth woman elected to a statewide office in California’s history. Follow the Controller on Twitter at @CAController and on Facebook at California State Controller’s Office.