Imbasciani (pictured above at left) was elected to the six-year term at CIRM’s January Board meeting. He will replace outgoing chair Jonathan Thomas, who has served in the position since 2011.
“My experience has positioned me to champion the aims of CIRM, advocate for it cogently, and represent it responsibly before the public and their state and federal elected representatives,” Imbasciani said. “I look forward to the challenge of advancing the groundbreaking work of this Agency, at the same time nourishing the hopes for medical advances held by the citizens of our great State.”
Imbasciani has served as the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) since 2015. As Secretary, he created several new programs within the department, including forging eight independent California veteran homes into a unified system, establishing programs for veterans in state prisons, and supporting the 58 county veteran service offices.
CIRM also bid farewell to Sen. Art Torres (ret) and Jonathan Thomas (also known as JT) for their service on our Board.
JT was elected as Chair of the Board in 2011 after he was nominated by then-Governor Jerry Brown, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
He served as chair of the Governing Board for more than 12 years. In that time, he led CIRM in granting $2.5 billion in grants to support groundbreaking research and discovery to advance stem cell research and accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs.
He led the agency as it expanded its work with industry, revamped its award processes, prepared for the expiration of bond funding, supported the drafting of Proposition 14, and planned for the next phase of CIRM’s programs after the voters approved $5.5 billion in additional funding.
Senator Torres was nominated in 2009 as CIRM Vice Chair by then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and shortly after was elected by the CIRM Governing Board.
Senator Torres served on the Grants and Standards working groups, and served as the inaugural Chair of the Accessibility and Affordability Working Group. He served on numerous subcommittees, led CIRM’s government relations efforts, and played a pivotal role in launching CIRM’s SPARK high school internship program.
CIRM expresses its deepest gratitude to Senator Torres and JT for their service on its Governing Board and for their dedication to the advancement of stem cell research and our mission to accelerate world class science to deliver transformative regenerative medicine treatments in an equitable manner to a diverse California and world.
Following the passage of Proposition 14 CIRM has hired five new employees to help increase the team’s ability to respond to new challenges and responsibilities.
Prop 14, which was approved by voters in November 2020, gives CIRM $5.5 billion in new funding. Those funds mean CIRM can once again fund research from Discovery, through Translational and Clinical, as well as create new education and training programs. Prop 14 also adds new areas of focus for the Stem Cell Agency including creating an Accessibility and Affordability Working Group, expanding the Alpha Stem Cell Clinic network and creating new Centers of Excellence in underserved parts of California. To meet those new responsibilities the Agency has hired a highly talented group of individuals. Those include:
Kevin Marks is CIRM’s new General Counsel. Kevin studied Russian at college and originally wanted to be a diplomat, but when that didn’t work out he turned to the law. He became a highly accomplished, skilled advisor with global and domestic expertise and a history of delivering innovative legal and business results. He has served as Vice President and Head of Legal and Compliance at Roche Molecular Solutions, VP and General Counsel at Roche Molecular Diagnostics and VP and General Counsel at Roche Palo Alto, LLC.
“We are so delighted to have Kevin Marks join CIRM as a member of our executive Leadership Team,” says Maria T. Millan, MD, CIRM’s President and CEO. “He brings unique qualifications and critical skills during the formative phase and launch of our new strategic plan for California’s $5.5B investment in stem cell, genomics and regenerative medicine research and therapy development. As general counsel, he will oversee the legal department, human resources, grants management and operations at the Agency. Kevin has an established track record with global and domestic expertise and a history of delivering innovative legal and business solutions.”
“He is revered by his colleagues as an exceptional leader in his profession and in the community. Kevin is known for developing people as well as programs, and for promoting racial, ethnic and gender diversity.”
“I am incredibly honored to be joining CIRM at this stage of its journey,” says Marks. “I see the opportunity to contribute to positive patient outcomes–especially those patients with unmet medical needs–by working towards accelerating stem cell research in California as a member of the CIRM team as rewarding and perfectly aligned with my professional and personal goals.”
Pouneh Simpson as Director of Finance. Pouneh comes to CIRM from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in California, where she served as the Recovery Financial Administration Chief. At OES she worked with local, state, and federal government stakeholders on disaster recovery planning, exercises, and grant administration, specifically, overseeing the grant processing of all disaster recovery activity.
Prior to that Pouneh worked as the Chief Financial Officer of the Veterans Homes, where she managed finances at eight Veterans Homes with over 2,800 positions and $365 million in General Fund support. She also led the writing of legislation, regulations, policies and procedures for Cal Vet, overhauling the business and financial portions of eight Veterans Homes.
Mitra Hooshmand, PhD. as Senior Science Officer for Special Projects and Initiatives. Mitra joins CIRM after more than five years of leadership experience at Americans for Cures, a stem cell advocacy group. During this time, she mobilized hundreds of stakeholders, from scientists to national and local patient advocacy organizations, to generate support for CIRM’s mission.
Mitra has a PhD. in Anatomy and Biology from the University of California at Irvine. She also worked as a Project Scientist at the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine, where she conducted and published academic and industry-partnered research in studies investigating the therapeutic benefit of human neural stem cell transplantation in preclinical models of spinal cord injury and aging.
Vanessa Singh, as Human Resources Manager. Vanessa has 15 years of experience working for the state of California, working at the Departments of General Services, Insurance and Human Services. In those roles she gained experience in performing, processing, developing, implementing, and advising on many personnel aspects such as compensation, benefits, classifying positions, recruitment and hiring, salary structure (exempt and civil service), organization structure, and retirement.
When COVID struck Vanessa stepped up to help. She worked as a Case Investigator for San Bernardino Local Health Jurisdiction, Department of Public Health, doing contact tracing. She talked to people diagnosed with coronavirus and collected information on people they may have had close contact with who may have been exposed to the virus.
Claudette Mandac as Project Manager Review. Claudette has more than seven years’ experience with UCSF’s Human Research Protection Program. In that role she prepared protocols for scientific, regulatory and ethical review, pre-screening submissions to ensure they were complete and consistent, and then routing them to the appropriate reviewers for administrative, expedited or Committee review. She also managed an Institutional Review Board Committee, preparing and distributing protocols for review by designated scientific and nonscientific reviewers, coordinating meetings, recruiting and training members, and maintaining records of conflicts of interest. At UCSF she annually helped process up to 3,000 IRB modifications, continuing reviews, and post-approval safety reports for domestic and international socio-behavioral or biomedical research.
Claudette has two degrees from U.C. Berkeley; one in Arts and History and another in Science, Conservation and Resource Studies.