Bay Area Pursues Stem Cell Home Base; San Diego Also Leading Contender For Headquarters

California's budding enterprise in stem cell research is looking for a home, and so far the leading contenders are the established biotech beachheads of the Bay Area and San Diego. In both regions, local boosters see the headquarters for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine as a plum whose value in visibility and prestige would far exceed its modest size -- no more than about 50 administrative jobs and enough space to accommodate large meetings of policy- makers and advisers. A subcommittee of the institute board meets by teleconference Tuesday to begin the site-selection process in earnest. A separate subcommittee meets today to begin the search for a chief executive to run the institute, which will be dispensing $3 billion in voter-approved financing. Recommendations go before the full board at its next meeting Feb. 3 in San Diego. Decision-makers hope to move quickly to hire staff and move into offices, at least on an interim basis, so that the real business of issuing research grants can get under way, perhaps as soon as May. The most likely addresses are said to be in the San Diego County beachside enclave known as Torrey Pines, a part of exclusive La Jolla, and the Mission Bay development area on the southeastern edge of San Francisco, where UCSF has an expanding biomedical campus, sweeping views of the bay and plenty of room for more neighbors. Few seriously expect the stem cell institute will land someplace else, such as Los Angeles, the other leading early contender.

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