Research Training II
$1 390 599
Statement of Benefit to California:
The application for a Type III program comes from an institution that was a recipient of a CIRM Training Grant I award. As in the first funding period, the program has an established core curriculum for trainees and features participation of mentors from several other prominent local institutions. The focus of the training and the philosophy underlying the program development are its orientation around translational research. The goal of the program is to immerse trainees in knowledge and investigations of the role of stem cells in health and disease. The training environment is outstanding. The trainees will have a large number of highly qualified mentors from which to choose, and mentors are distributed in institutions nearby the applicant organization. The quality of the training environment provided by these mentors and the general level of resources for the trainees was considered outstanding; these resources include a chemical screening center, a library production center, and a nanotechnology center. One reviewer noted that many of the mentors were assistant professors and that one was very junior, and suggested that pairing of the more junior mentors with senior mentors might improve the training of postdoctoral fellows. A real strength of the program design is a journal club linked thematically to two weekly lectures, which reviewers felt would promote student-centered learning. The Program Director (PD) has an exceptionally strong funding record and is the director of several large research enterprises, causing some concern that the PD will not be able to devote sufficient time to management and oversight of the training program (with effort listed at 2%). Another concern about the leadership was the lack of description of the ad hoc committee used to select the fellows for the program. The steering committee, as described, included only a single member from an outside (participating) institution rather than having it balanced to represent the other institutions involved in the training program. The PD states that she/he will work with his institution to track the long-term progress of the trainees, but reviewers were disappointed that a systematic, quantitative approach for following trainees was not developed, and suggested that the PD consider a more sophisticated database approach for tracking. A related problem cited by reviewers was that likely papers from the first trainees were not reported, presumable because of the lack of systematic follow-up. Nonetheless, overall, reviewers felt that the PD and mentors were well suited to the proposed program and training goals. The strength of the program is reflected in the placement of 2 of the original 13 CIRM fellows in independent faculty positions. The training environment is enriched by other training programs including a federally sponsored post-doctoral program in cancer biology and some postdoc programs housed in a major medical center nearby. The numbers of faculty at the host institution who participate in outreach activities to underrepresented minority communities and campuses was not stated, though the application notes some outreach to local state and community colleges. The diversity of the post-doctoral training group was also not addressed in the application. The institution is highly committed to extending the infrastructure and intellectual base for stem cell research, and reviewers noted integration of stem cell faculty into important related programs focused on neuroscience, aging, and various medical specialities. Overall, the program provides an outstanding training environment both at the applicant institution and within the stem cell community in the surrounding institutions, and it is likely to attract very talented postdoctoral trainees. Reviewers felt that the course work was extensive but valuable, but were concerned that the program director would have insufficient time for leading the program. They suggested diversifying the advisory committee as a way to improve the capacity for leadership of the program. The combination of solid curriculum, myriad opportunities for seminars and symposia locally, and strong research mentors in a wide range of fields related to translational stem cell biology collectively led reviewers to consider the application an excellent one.