Funding opportunities

Interdisciplinary Training in Stem Cell Biology, Engineering and Medicine

Funding Type: 
Research Training II
Grant Number: 
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$3 371 686
Funding Recommendations: 
Grant approved: 
Public Abstract: 
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Review Summary: 
This is a request for renewal of a Type I program to fund 16 scholars (5 predoctoral, 8 postdoctoral, 3 clinician scientists). The basic science fellows have access to a variety of well-outlined topics, while the clinical fellows will be trained on the use of human cord blood cells. The CIRM Scholar selection process has already been worked out. The training environment and resources at the applicant university are superb and are supplemented by a collaborating clinical institution. Reviewers considered the integration between stem cell biology, bioengineering and medicine a strength of the program. Although not described in detail, imaging training is included in the program, adding another dimension emphasizing clinical translation. In addition, the availability of electives in law, ethics and humanities related to stem cell issues enhances the program as a whole. To this effect, two pre-JD fellows are included. The usual seminars, yearly retreat and symposia round out the training of the scholars. In spite of the overall educational strengths of the program, the required Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine course was considered a weakness. No description is given of the topics to be covered, rather the content will change to reflect the current literature and the fellows’ interests. The course apparently will meet only once per month, and overall appears to be more like a journal club than a well thought out course. A unique strength of the program is the placing of trainees within a clinical pediatrics environment, although one reviewer expressed concern whether the clinical fellows will be on a trajectory to emerge as leading clinician-scientists in stem cell research, since it was not clear whether they would engage in basic science at the applicant institution. The current Program Director (PD) will continue in this position, he/she is well qualified and the overall team has nice breadth of expertise and perspectives. The PD is aided by an Associate PD from the collaborating clinical institution, who is responsible for all aspects of the clinical fellows program. The steering committee consists of strong faculty at the various institutions. These team members have been working together well during the previous funding period as evidenced by the success of the program. The degree of assessment of trainees’ progress by the program leadership could be stronger. All scholars will meet individually with the PD at the midpoint of their annual appointment period. Scholars will present their work once yearly at the annual retreat, but no written reports are required for the scholars program. Faculty mentors will be monitoring individual trainees within the context of their laboratories. Approximately 40 mentors are involved in this training program. They all appear to be well-versed in mentoring given the number of past trainees. The pool of clinician-scientists for mentoring the Clinical Fellows is very solid but not as large or robust as in some other programs. There is a strong base of training programs and training experience at the applicant institution. The 3-year CIRM comprehensive training program already in place has successfully produced several trainees, giving reviewers confidence that the proposed program is likely to succeed. Competition to get into the program is increasing, and thus the demand is present to support the increased number of slots requested. The existing scholars in this program have published in top tier journals. The applicant institution runs outreach programs for summer research opportunities for undergraduates across the US. The institution has a very good diversity record, and of the 22 CIRM scholars appointed to date, 4 are from underrepresented groups in science. The research and intellectual environment at the applicant university is outstanding. In addition, it has significantly invested in stem cell research on campus. There already is substantial cohesion among different stem cell scientists, as evidenced by the previous CIRM comprehensive training grant round. Many investigators participating the training program are leaders in their field.

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