Funding opportunities

Funding Type: 
Research Training II
Grant Number: 
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$3 930 000
Funding Recommendations: 
Grant approved: 
Public Abstract: 

This application proposes to continue, and expand, our CIRM-funded integrated training and research program in the fundamental biology of embryonic stem cells, nuclear reprogramming, tissue- and organ-specific stem cells and cancer stem cells. We aim to produce the next generation of leaders positioned to understand basic stem cell mechanisms, develop relevant human stem cell lines for investigation into pathogenesis and treatment of diseases, and provide the basis for development of new molecular and cellular therapies. During the previous funding period, the CIRM Training program has been highly-successful and vital to our stem cell efforts, providing valuable resources for both Scholars and the greater community in which they are educated. Our Program offers outstanding opportunities for training predoctoral, postdoctoral and clinical Scholars, in stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and human disease. Because the School of Medicine, Hospitals, and the University are situated on one campus, our Program brings a powerful combination of assets to this mission. Our faculty have extensive experience in basic research, clinical translation, and training in stem cell biology and medicine. Moreover, our Program is strongly committed to stem cell biology. In 2002, we established a regenerative medicine institute, which nucleated a University-wide Program in Regenerative Medicine that promotes interactions between Departments and Programs in the Schools of Engineering, Law, Humanities & Sciences, Business, Medicine, and an interdisciplinary program in biology and medicine. In addition, [REDACTED] has established a center for human embryonic stem cell research and education, which is housed in our regenerative medicine institute. Program activities form a foundation for research and include a comprehensive course on Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine to educate CIRM Scholars regarding stem cells and applications to human disease, and opportunities to provide non-medical CIRM Scholars with an understanding of the considerations necessary to translate basic research to the clinic. Courses in Biomedical Ethics, Responsible Conduct of Research, basic and advanced courses in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and pluripotent stem cell biology, a seminar series [REDACTED], an annual retreat and a robust program in stem cells and Society offer additional and unique educational opportunities. We seek funding for our Type I comprehensive training program with 16 concurrent positions devoted to 6 predoctoral, 5 postdoctoral, and 5 clinical fellow CIRM Scholars.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

This application proposes to continue and expand our CIRM-funded integrated training and research program in the fundamental biology of embryonic, adult, and reprogrammed-stem cell research and its applications to human disease. We aim to produce leaders positioned to understand basic stem cell mechanisms, develop relevant human stem cell lines in order to investigate the pathogenesis and treatment of diseases, and provide the fundamental and practical basis for the development of new molecular and cellular therapies. These activities have significant implications for the State of California and its citizens. We are requesting CIRM funds in order to continue our highly successful Research Training Program, with 6 predoctoral, 5 post-doctoral and 5 clinical fellow trainees for a total of 16 concurrent CIRM Scholar positions. Trainees will have the opportunity to learn from pre-eminent stem cell biologists as well as physicians, scientists and physician-scientists at one of the State’s leading academic institutions. Furthermore, our program in Regenerative Medicine, with which trainees are closely associated, represents a unique University-wide collaboration that brings together over 150 faculty members in life, physical, and engineering sciences, together with leaders in business, law, and education. This CIRM Research Training Program proposal will provide real benefits to the State of California and its citizens in the following ways: First, all trainees will be exposed to vital medical issues amongst Californian patients and this will foster new ideas and lead to exploration of novel strategies with associated faculty in their pursuits of novel stem cell therapies. Second, our programmatic activities including courses, seminars, annual retreats, symposia and journal club components as part of this training program, will serve to connect with a much greater number of student, fellows, and basic and clinical faculty across the disciplines, from Biochemistry to Law and Business to Medicine from across the campus in all seven schools and across the State. Third, this training program has significant potential to provide the support and momentum to explore advances in stem cell biology and novel therapies which will further attract additional world class faculty over the next decade. Finally, by bringing together our stem cell faculty and trainees in one program, and connecting and coordinating (via our program in Regenerative Medicine), our efforts across the campus will maximize our capability to develop innovative new diagnostics, tools, and novel therapies in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine and also gain the attention and momentum of researchers across the campus and beyond. These innovations ultimately promise to improve the lives of Californians and bring additional research talent and business into the State.

Review Summary: 

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.