Research Training II
$3 930 000
Statement of Benefit to California:
This is an application to renew and expand the existing CIRM Type I Comprehensive Training and Research Program in embryonic stem cells, nuclear reprogramming, tissue- and organ-specific stem cells, and cancer stem cells. The Program Director (PD) asks for funding for 6 predoctoral, 5 postdoctoral, and 5 clinical fellows, and seeks to train basic scientists and clinicians in the application of stem cell technologies to human diseases. The highly interdisciplinary program draws on more than 150 faculty members. The training environment is outstanding and the instructors and mentors include leading international figures in the field of stem cell biology. The program is well designed and the quality of the coursework, which draws on experts in the various fields of study, is outstanding. The program is unified through a set of courses required for all 3 types of trainees. These are supplemented with additional optional courses tailored to the needs of the individual and to the stage of education/training, monthly training meetings with the PD and/or Associate PD, participation in the annual stem cell retreat and in the weekly in-house seminar series on regenerative medicine. Such additions were considered great strengths of the program. Reviewers especially appreciated that all trainees, including non-MDs, participate in a clinical immersion rotation. The interdisciplinary nature of the training and the cross-fertilization of trainees at various stages of career development are valuable in providing a rich learning environment. The assessment of progress is well defined with formal monitoring every 6 months. The stated preference is to support a trainee up to the 3 years rather than a single year, but no data on how this has worked were given. The qualifications of the key individuals associated with this training program are unsurpassed. The applicant has served as PD in the current funding period. He/she has extensive clinical research experience, an extensive bibliography, leads a large and productive, federally funded laboratory, and directs a large interdisciplinary program in regenerative medicine at the applicant institution. His/her MBA adds to administrative skills. The two Associate PDs are internationally recognized figures in stem cell biology and bring substantial administrative and training experience to the administration of the training program. The three directors will be advised by an outstanding External Advisory Committee that will meet quarterly and report the program’s progress annually. The research and training expertise of the faculty is outstanding. Overall, the 53 key faculty members from 30 departments and the more than 150 affiliated faculty members have mentored nearly 2000 trainees, they are thus highly qualified to train pre-, post-doctoral and clinical fellows for stem cell research. The complementary roles of the mentors and the flexibility in selecting mentors who will best suit the trainee’s career goals are a significant strength of the program. The applicant university represents an outstanding training environment with a very large pool of predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers, and administers well over 30 training grants. The quality of outcomes as measured by joint mentor/scholar publications is not provided and the duration of the CIRM program does not yet lend itself to tracking the placement of trainees. However, the training positions are highly sought-after, and the applicant describes an acceptance rate for available positions of approximately 10%. There appears to be an active interest in recruiting minority trainees aided by the institution’s diversity office. In addition, cooperative interactions with other institutions will enrich the pool of candidates and broaden the range of available laboratories and mentors. The applicant university is engaged in outstanding stem cell research, and is one of the most highly CIRM-funded institutions in California. This is an extremely fertile environment for stem cell research that reaches across disciplines and schools within the institution. The institution continues to recruit excellent faculty members and to support the core facilities and other essential resources. It has raised substantial contributions to supplement CIRM funds for construction of a new stem cell facility. The institution’s support for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional interactions greatly strengthens the research and training environment.