Research Training II
$1 212 732
Statement of Benefit to California:
This application is for a Type III specialty training program, and funding is requested for two predoctoral students and four postdoctoral trainees. The formal course work will include a fourteen-week course in stem cell biology, courses on ethical issues in stem cell research and translation to clinical medicine, a workshop in laboratory techniques for working with stem cells, and a video conference course in stem cell biology and medicine jointly offered with two partnering institutions in the area. Additionally, there will be a stem cell seminar series, a journal club, and a dedicated session during the institution’s annual retreat. One of the Associate Directors is in charge of the evaluation and mentoring for the trainees; this provides consistency and an unbiased assessment. The selection of graduate students will be after their first year of courses while two of the post doctoral trainees will be chosen from those already at the institution and the other two chosen from external recruits. Each of the selected trainees will be supported for a full 36 months so there would be only one entry point for trainees during the grant. Reviewers commented that this is a well-conceived proposal with appropriate scope for training at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels to prepare participants for careers in stem cell research. The two outstanding strengths of this program are the institution’s strong tradition of translation of basic science into the clinic and the extraordinary core facilities available to the community. The courses are appropriate and taught by qualified faculty, although the stem cell laboratory course is not currently up and running, and it is not clear what is the status of the other courses. In addition, a seminar series, journal club, and yearly symposium are a part of the training. Strength of this particular training program is the strong clinical component to stem cell research at the institution. The resources available for the trainees are outstanding, and trainee progress is evaluated and monitored appropriately. Reviewers agreed that the leadership team seems strong. The program will be led by two co-Program Directors (PD) along with one Associate Program Director. One PD is an experienced researcher with multiple teaching and leadership roles in the graduate school; the second is an assistant professor with less mentoring experience. The Associate Director is also an Associate Dean for Student Development and brings experience in directing internship programs at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Program oversight is provided by a steering committee, which will meet at least quarterly with the leadership team to provide advice and carry out planning. The caliber of the science at this institution is excellent. Thirty mentors are listed, with many of them serving on NIH or other study sections and almost all with NIH funding. Ten of these were recruited to the applicant institution since 2003. The majority of the mentors are experienced in training pre/postdoctoral researchers. A detailed description of the types of research under way is provided in the application. Based on publication and funding records, the faculty members range from very good to outstanding. There are quite a large number of assistant professors who can bring enthusiasm and energy to a program, and the oversight committees seem well positioned to monitor the mentorship activities of these less-experienced faculty members. The graduate program that will host this CIRM Training Program has a fairly modest enrollment of about 15 students per year, but the pool is very good based on mean GRE and GPA scores, and students are applying from schools that include outstanding US and international universities. Although it is not clear what the qualifications of those captured are, the students graduate with a median time of 5.5 years with a high rate of publication and continuation in the biomedical or biotechnology fields. A new research building is being planned for 2010, and this building will house research laboratories and an instructional laboratory for the stem cell techniques course. Another strength of this application is the thoughtful description of how student interns from CIRM Bridges partners will be integrated into the activities of this training program. The applicant institution has a strong history of stem cell research and for work at the interface between basic and clinical research. The institution has made extensive institutional support available to stem cell research over the last few years. This includes (or will include) salary support for the senior leadership of the training program, underwriting tuition for all predoctoral trainees, absorbing costs associated with career-development programs, paying for off-site training in advance stem cell techniques, guaranteeing stipends for predoctoral trainees in the last years of their dissertation work after their training grant support. Overall, reviewers were very supportive of this application. They commented on the strength of translational science at this institution, and on specific elements of the training program. They also commented that the application responded to the RFA in a sincere way.