Funding opportunities

UCLA CIRM Research Training Program II

Funding Type: 
Research Training II
Grant Number: 
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$3 930 000
Funding Recommendations: 
Grant approved: 
Public Abstract: 
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Review Summary: 
This application seeks continued support for the institution’s CIRM Type I Training Program in stem cell research. The program will coordinate the training of 5 predoctoral, 6 postdoctoral, and 5 clinical scholars for careers in academia and industry. Scholars are selected by a competitive application process. These basic scientists, engineers, and clinical trainees will receive a background in stem cell biology, human disease, regenerative medicine and translational science through classroom learning, a panel of seminars and symposia, and required laboratory research. A ten-week required course includes lectures in stem cell biology and its social, legal, and ethical implications, and also features trainee presentations. CIRM scholars must attend one major domestic or international scientific meeting annually and must document their research progress by annual publications in the field. The program’s faculty base crosses schools and disciplines. Core facilities for human embryonic stem cells (hESC), induced pluripotent stem cells, and production under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Tissue Practice (GTP) are in place at the institution. Other resources for career development and research in the basic science and clinical applications of stem cells are also available on campus. Reviewers felt the overall training program and environment to be outstanding. The interdisciplinary nature of the program with interactions between basic and translational scientists, the depth of the mentor pool, and the outstanding resources and commitment to stem cell research greatly strengthen the program. The quality of the limited-enrollment ten-week stem cell biology course including lectures and scholar presentations was specifically praised. Scholar competition for program entry was cited as another strength. Reviewers appreciated the diverse interests of the excellent faculty base that crosses schools and disciplines and includes established stem cell investigators and outside experts brought in to participate in seminar series and symposia. The university’s status as an established teaching institution with a medical school, pre-existing graduate programs and dedicated stem cell facilities, including those for GMP and GTP, made it especially suited for research training and career development in the basic science and clinical applications of stem cells. One reviewer voiced concern that the reduction in clinical fellows from 6 to 5 without explanation may indicate that this program is less competitive than the postdoctoral program. The reviewers unanimously praised the program co-directors’ records that couple outstanding scientific accomplishment and leadership with extensive training experience. Development of junior scientists and direction of the institution’s stem cell program were highlighted as training accomplishments. Two reviewers noted input from the training program steering committee provides further scientific and training expertise. The oversight provided by the outstanding external advisory board at its annual meeting was also appreciated. Reviewers uniformly recognized that the institution provides an outstanding environment for training both scientists and clinicians in the stem cell field. Reviewers uniformly lauded faculty mentors as superb, with exciting research training opportunities for scholars that encompass many different areas of stem cell biology. The mentors were judged to be highly qualified to train predoctoral, postdoctoral and clinical fellows based on the individual accomplishments of the current mentors and recent faculty recruits. Reviewers noted the large population of graduate students in the life sciences, school of engineering and school of medicine, 16% of whom are under-represented minorities. The training environment is enriched by the institution’s large number of postdoctoral fellows, multiple NIH training grants, a well-established MD-PHD program, a program leading to dual medical board eligibility, and a graduate program in clinical research. Scholar/mentor joint publications, including papers in Blood, Nature, PNAS, Cancer Research, Cell Stem Cell, and Stem Cells were cited as evidence of the current program’s success. The institution is a partner with an institution that has submitted a application for the CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research program, which if funded, could help to increase minority participation. One reviewer voiced concern that minority participation in the CIRM scholar’s program is not apparent in the application. Reviewers universally complemented the superior stem cell research environment at the institution. They noted the existence of a stem cell research center, clinical translational program, active faculty participation in embryology and embryonic stem cell research, as well as laboratory space for hESC, GMP and GTP. They also highlighted the variety of active, CIRM funded efforts at the institution. Overall reviewers considered this to be an outstanding training program and recommended it for funding.

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