We will provide an interdisciplinary stem cell training program that incorporates teaching and research in chemistry, functional genomics, and molecular genetics. The goal of this proposal is to train scientists for future careers in basic or applied research in the field of stem cell biology, with a particular emphasis on training coworkers at the interface of chemistry and biology in order to more effectively apply chemical tools and approaches to basic research and the development of new therapeutic approaches in regenerative medicine. An important component of the training program will be to introduce trainees to the most modern techniques in chemistry, genomics and genetics and their application to stem cell research. This requires a training program that brings together graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the biology and chemistry disciplines in order to (1) educate them in the basic biology, methods, and applications in embryonic and adult stem cell biology; (2) cross train them in the principles and approaches that chemists and biologists apply to biological problems; (3) foster research collaborations between chemists and biologists in the stem cell field; and (4) stimulate an awareness of the problems and ethical issues associated with basic and applied stem cell research. We are requesting a Type II program with support for 10 trainees.
The ultimate goal of stem cell research is the development of therapeutic strategies for a wide range of human diseases including cardiovascular disease, neurogenerative disease, mucososkeletal disease, diabetes and cancer. This goal can only be achieved with the acquisition of basic knowledge of the properties of stem cells, their controlled expansion and differentiation and integration into affected tissues. To achieve this goal it is essential to train scientists for a future career in the field of stem cell research that apply their knowledge to the study of stem cells and the development of therapeutic strategies for regenerative medicine. The aim of the proposed training program is to incorporate teaching and research in chemistry, functional genomics, and genetic to train scientists that can effectively apply an interdisciplinary approach to basic stem cell research and regenerative medicine. These scientists will be essential to further advance stem cell research and training at academic institutions and hospitals in California, and to provide pharmaceutical companies and the biotechnology industry with scientists that are dedicated to develop therapeutic applications in regenerative medicine.
This is an application for competitive renewal and expansion of a Type II Training program. The Program Director (PD) requests annual support for training five predoctoral students and five postdoctoral fellows. This is an increase from the three predoctoral and three postdoctoral trainees in the Training Program I. The program builds upon an existing interdisciplinary training program at the host institution and interactions with other institutions in the area through a regenerative medicine consortium. The proposed training program takes advantage of the unique strengths of the host institution in biological sciences and chemistry to address questions relevant to stem cell research. Required course work includes a core course in stem cell biology with a medicine and ethics component, a new course in chemical and functional genomics, a laboratory course for human embryonic stem cell research and a monthly stem cell colloquium. The program also includes the annual stem cell meeting and a biannual single day off-site retreat at which trainees present their work.
Reviewers considered the overall quality of the training program as outstanding. The emphasis on the interface between chemistry and biology provides a strong foundation for spawning an interdisplinary program in stem cell biology. The reviewers recognized the strength of the exceptionally qualified faculty at the host institution in diverse fields including genomics, chemistry, glycomics, reprogramming and profiling of stem cells and mouse molecular genetics as well as the focus on the clinical applications. Reviewers considered the existing collaborative research programs and classroom activities at nearby institutions as resources that make this strong training program even stronger.
The review panel found the PD to be exceptionally well qualified to lead the program. Based on his/her previous experience, the review panel judged the PD to have strong experience directing large programs and providing administrative leadership to multiple laboratories. The co-director of the program has outstanding training and research record. The steering committee was also well recognized for the qualifications of its members. The faculty members that will serve as mentors to the trainees consist of senior and junior faculty members. The review panel thought that some of the junior faculty members should have been paired with the senior faculty in order for them to learn how to effectively train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. It appears that this aspect have been overlooked in the program.
The review panel criticized the proposal for not providing any information on the existing training programs at the host institution. Moreover, outcome measures for student trainees are not described including publications and placement. The host institution was recognized for its excellent diversity with a relatively high proportion of under represented minorities.
Reviewers described the commitment of the host institution for research as outstanding because of its existing commitment to stem cell research, an ongoing commitment in new space and hiring of new faculty that will facilitate stem cell research.
Overall reviewers very enthusiastic about this program.