The mandate of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is to oversee and support quality research efforts in stem cell technology and to advance the development of medical therapies using this technology. As a result, many important research programs have already been funded in record time and the stem cell research community in California is growing rapidly. A need has ensued for qualified personnel at the Master of Science (MS) level to support key stem cell research activities in California. Our academic institution currently offers an MS in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics and an MS in Biotechnology/MBA Dual Degree program. These programs boast an enrollment of over 100 students and have a demonstrated track record of yielding highly competitive MS-level professionals. Our graduates have successfully entered the mid- and high-level workforce of the academic research community and biotechnology industry, or have pursued doctoral education. We propose to develop a comprehensive training program in Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management (SCT&LM) as an emphasis in our ongoing MS program. The emphasis will include 9 MS-level lecture and lab-intensive courses, 4 elective courses, and a 1-year internship. Most courses have been implemented for our existing MS program. To this end, we are seeking the Bridges Award to (1) assist us in developing 4 new courses for the graduate program, and (2) provide support for 30 one-year internships and an intensive Stem Cell Training course at a CIRM-funded training facility at [REDACTED]. Supplemented by 9 existing courses and 15 additional internships funded by our own institution, our MS program will graduate 45 fully educated and well-trained SCT&LM professional 3 years. We will also develop a general education course on stem cell technology with 3 local community colleges to educate over 1,000 students in the next 3 years. We have established agreements with 5 institutions, with 1 agreement pending, that will accept our graduate interns, offering a variety of research projects using different types of stem cells. A recent survey of our current MS students indicates a strong interest in the SCT&LM program. Many of these students will have completed most of the required courses and be ready for the internship by fall 2009. If our proposal succeeds in its requested funding, our first cohort of students will graduate with an MS degree in Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management by summer 2010. This program will be self-sufficient after the 3-year funding period and will sustain itself based on the proven track record of our existing professional science master's programs. We are confident that the SCT&LM program would be a key contribution to the stem cell efforts supported by the people of California in fulfilling the unmet need for highly qualified technical and managerial personnel in stem cell research technology.
The effective implementation of numerous research programs in stem cell technology funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, created after the approval of Proposition 71 by California citizens, has led to a rapid growth of research communities in California. Consequently, an urgent and long-term need for qualified technical personnel to support these research activities has become apparent. Stem cell technology is a relatively new field. The management of stem cells in the laboratory is difficult and arduous. It requires an experienced and knowledgeable technical workforce. Few individuals in California are currently trained to provide research teams with high-quality and routine management of stem cell culture facilities. California does not have any program for advanced training in stem cell technology and stem cell lab management. Our proposal for the CIRM Bridges Award addresses the demand for well-trained professionals capable of managing stem cell culture facilities. We propose to extend our current MS Biotechnology and Bioinformatics program to include comprehensive training in Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management. Several new courses will be proposed and incorporated into the new program along with existing courses in the MS program. To arrange the one-year internship program, we have established agreements with 5 institutions and are in the process of reaching agreement with 1 additional institution that will accept our graduate interns, offering them a variety of research projects using different types of stem cells, experimental approaches and human disease models. A recent survey of our current 125 MS students indicates a strong interest in the Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management program. Many of these students will have completed most of the required courses and be ready for the internship by fall 2009. If our proposal succeeds in its requested funding, our first cohort of students will graduate with an MS degree in Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management by summer 2010. This program will become self-sufficient after the 3-year funding period and will sustain itself based on the proven track record of our existing professional science master's programs. Graduates from our program will be able to integrate readily into the scientific workforce in stem cell research in the State of California. During the 3 years of requested funding, our program will graduate 45 professionals with a Master of Science degree in Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management and support 15 internships above and beyond the 30 funded by the CIRM Award. We are confident that our training program at the MS level will be a key contribution to the stem cell efforts supported by the people of California in fulfilling the unmet need for highly qualified technical and managerial personnel in stem cell research technology.
This proposal seeks a Bridges Award to add a Stem Cell Technology and Laboratory Management Emphasis to an established Masters of Science program focused on biotechnology and bioinformatics. The applicant proposes to create 30 internships using Bridges funds and an additional 15 internships will be established using home institution funds. One-year long internships will include participation in original research projects in stem cell research labs at 4 academic and one for-profit institution, and the applicant is in the process of obtaining approval to establish internships at a prominent biotechnology company. Interns participating in the Bridges program will have meetings at quarterly intervals with the host internship coordinators, internship mentors, home institution faculty co-mentors and advisory committee. A written report is required at the end of the internship as well as an oral presentation at a colloquium. The educational component of the program will include nine existing courses in the MS degree program, 4 new focused courses will be developed at the home institution, and prior to their internship, students will take the intensive human embryonic stem cell training course provided at one of the host institutions. In addition, a general education course in stem cell technology and its social, legal and ethical issues will be developed in collaboration with three community colleges. It is anticipated that more than 1000 students will take the course over the 3-year funding period of the award.
Reviewers were very enthusiastic about this proposal. The existing MS program was only recently implemented and has an impressive track record, having already graduated 36 students all of whom have entered the biomedical/biotechnology field. The proposed new Bridges program, as described to the current students in the MS program, appears to be very popular, as 25% of the current 125 students have expressed a strong interest. Reviewers judged the proposed new and existing courses as being very strong, although one reviewer felt that it was unclear how the general education course would integrate with the overall program.
The duration of the internship (one year) is a significant strength of the program as it acknowledges the difficulty of working with stem cells, thus giving the trainee an opportunity not only to learn the techniques but also to apply them toward some tangible, productive end. Mechanisms for the recruitment of qualified program participants, for matching interns with host labs and for tracking trainee accomplishment are well defined in this application. A particular strength is the Internship Agreement between the intern and mentors, which will describe the project and learning objectives for the internship and will serve as the basis for quarterly progress reports by the intern. Another strength of the program is a good selection of specified internship opportunities. The widely different types of environments, including an industry setting, should enable students to find a laboratory setting that will suit their interests. However, reviewers criticized the lack of discussion on the logistics of trainee travel/relocation for the internships, the omission of an internship program for undergraduates, and the absence of a plan to increase representation in the program of California’s diverse cultural population.
The institutional support for this program is exceptionally strong. Although the track record of the home institution is not very deep, having been established less than 10 years ago, the institution has shown commitment to biotechnology and cell biology education, thus providing a supportive environment for preparing students for their internships. The President of the home institution provided a strong letter of support and the reviewers appreciated that he/she committed to supporting five additional MS interns in each of the three years of CIRM funding. In addition, reviewers praised the fact that all but one of the proposed partnering arrangements have been finalized, although one reviewer felt that the pending agreement would add significant value. One of the hosts for the Bridges program has recently hired a graduate of the current MS program, attesting to the quality of that program.