Funding opportunities

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

Our Type I, Comprehensive Training Program will train basic scientists, engineers, and physicians to become leaders in stem cell research in academia and industry. The Stem Cell Research Center will coordinate the training of 5 pre-doctoral, 6 post-doctoral, and 5 clinical Scholars, each of whom will acquire (a) a thorough and critical background in stem cell biology, (b) an understanding of human disease and regenerative medicine, and (c) knowledge of how to translate basic research findings to the clinic. [REDACTED] provides state of the art research opportunities and mentoring for training Scholars in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine as evidenced by the past success of their publication of important papers in Nature, Blood, PNAS, Cancer Research, Cell Stem Cell, and Stem Cells. Scholars achieve the program goals through a coordinated approach integrating: 1) Coursework: A 10-week course on ‘Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine’ includes lectures and discussion of organogenesis, derivation and maintenance of human embryonic stem cells (hESC), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), various tissue specific stem cells, clinical trials, and the social, legal, and ethical aspects of stem cell research; 2) Seminars/Symposia: Attendance at symposia, conferences, and seminars featuring leading stem cell scientists and required presentations of their own research in a bi-weekly Center hosted Stem Cell Club; and 3) Research: Scholars devote the majority of their time to stem cell laboratory research with faculty who are leaders in cell and molecular biology, bioengineering or clinician-scientists who are applying the latest advances in gene medicine, cell-based therapies, and organ transplantation to patient care. The training faculty, whose ranks were further enhanced in the last three years by the recruitment of 11 new stem cell biology faculty, are based in the College of Letters and Science and Schools of Engineering and Medicine, and collaborate in a multidisciplinary environment. Together, these training opportunities offer clinician Scholars, many of whom simultaneously pursue a PhD degree, basic research training and experience and biomedical scientists and bioengineers knowledge of human disease and the translation of basic research to the clinic. Our focus on bench to bedside translational research builds upon an existing infrastructure supporting multiple core laboratories for derivation and distribution of hESC and iPSC, thereby ensuring trainee access to research materials, and state of the art facilities such as a FDA compliant Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) suite and CIRM sponsored Good Tissue Practice Shared Research Laboratories. The facilities, on a compact urban campus (<1 square mile), are augmented by a nearly completed building campaign that will add ~640,000ASF, of new campus based life sciences and engineering laboratories that includes a CIRM sponsored Major Facility Institute.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Our Type I Comprehensive Training Program will provide major benefits to California by: (1) increasing the number of scientists and clinicians with the qualifications to assume positions in California universities; (2) creating a high-level work force for California biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies; (3) providing the incentive for companies to re-locate to California in order to take advantage of the pool of scientists, engineers, and physicians trained in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine; and (3) developing novel therapeutic strategies with the potential to address the growing health care needs of the citizens of California. As a major biomedical research and education institution and the 7th largest employer in the State with associated economic activity generating more than $1.2 billion annually in local, state and federal taxes, the campus provides world-class infrastructure supporting a scientific enterprise generating greater than $900 million annually in extramural research funding. Each dollar of taxpayer investment in the campus generates almost $15 in economic activity, resulting in a $9.3 billion positive impact on the regional economy. Our integrated laboratory and classroom training program gives trainees an in-depth understanding of the scientific, clinical, and ethical aspects of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine that will drive laboratory advances to the bedside and the treatment of human disease. This in turn offers the potential to develop new approaches to treat intractable chronic conditions, thereby reducing health care costs.

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.