Funding opportunities

Funding Type: 
Grant Number: 
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$1 716 030
Funding Recommendations: 
Grant approved: 
Public Abstract: 

This program will provide advanced laboratory training in stem cell techniques for a total of ten, high-achieving undergraduate and master’s graduate students each year. This training will expand the pool of personnel with the state-of-the-art training necessary to undertake careers in stem cell and regenerative medicine research. Trainees will be recruited from existing and highly successful science research preparation programs that draw from the university’s diverse student population and include students that might not otherwise have the opportunity to acquire the skills to succeed in a stem cell research lab. A new curriculum at the home institution includes an advanced stem cell lecture course, research methods preparation, research seminars, and a general education curriculum, which together will enhance understanding of stem cell science amongst trainees and the general university population. After trainees take the stem cell lecture course and research methods preparation, they will take a short-course at a shared research lab, which will be followed directly by the focus of the program, a 12-month internship experience at one of four local stem cell research facilities. During the internship, trainees will attend stem cell research seminars and meet monthly with other trainees, as well as home and host institution faculty and administrators; these meetings are designed to integrate the internship experience with the proposed auxiliary educational activities, and to optimize mentorship of the trainees, as well as assessment of trainee progress and program goals. Culminating components of the program include a written research paper and a presentation describing internship activities for undergraduate-level trainees, and a written thesis and oral thesis defense for graduate-level trainees. Finally, the stem cell lecture course and general education curricula, as well as the establishment of research and training collaborations between the home and host institution faculty, provide program sustainability beyond the initial award period.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Human embryonic stem cells can provide the wherewithal for stimulating the growth of replacement tissues for diseased organs and ultimately can yield cures for diseases such as diabetes, neurological degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and cardiac failure. Beginning with basic research methods and culminating with hands-on experience with human embryonic stem cells, the training of a new generation of scientists to address these questions must begin in earnest in California’s major universities, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. Our numerous life sciences faculty members, who utilize stem cell research techniques in their pursuit of the basic processes controlling cell regeneration, can serve effectively as mentors for student trainees. These faculty focus in their labs on fundamental problems, including stem cell replacement of damaged heart tissue, potentiation of stem cells to retard cardiac aging, stem cell replacement of arterial wall macrophages, stem cell molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system regeneration and the cell signals that trigger differentiation of stem cells into specific cell lineages. Our proposed training program will involve students in 12 month internships at major local research centers and will serve to expand the stem cell research community in California by significantly increasing the number of young investigators qualified to conduct leading edge stem cell research.

Review Summary: 

This grant proposal will establish an internship program for undergraduate and master’s level graduate students at a state university in partnership with four host institutions. The host institutes include three non-profit and one for-profit organization. The internship will begin with a two-week stem cell short coarse at a host institution, introducing the participants to practical and hands-on human and animal embryonic and adult stem cell culture methods and genetic analysis. Following this course, the fellows will begin the 12-month internship in stem cells at a participating host institution. Interns will participate in colloquia in which a fellow will present a one-hour talk on his/her research to his/her peers, staff and advisory board members. Fellows will also be required to attend one research seminar per week at the home or host institution. Upon completion of the 12-month internship, the BS candidate will be required to submit a 25-page research paper that focuses on the research carried out during the internship. MS candidates will integrate their internship research into their 3-year thesis research, culminating in the defense of their thesis. The goal of the program is to prepare fellows with skills necessary to pursue research in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

The review panel regarded the training plan as carefully designed and clearly outlined. The concept of dividing the program into three phases - pre-internship, internship and post-internship was praised for allowing seamless integration of the training program into BS and MS degree programs. Reviewers recognized the strength of the program for requiring one year mentored research and completion of course in stem cell biology during the course of this program. One reviewer was concerned by the lack of details on the names and specific research interest of the faculty members from the home institution that will be involved in the development of course and in mentoring the students. Also there was some concern about having the internship coordinator be the sole decision maker of the interns acceptance and placement of the interns to host institutions without students participation in the decision making process.

Institutional and partnering arrangements were considered to be strong. As an institution with a high percentage of minority students, reviewers thought the home and host institutions would provide good career opportunities in stem cell biology.

Reviewers found the program director to be well qualified with good track record in publications as well as experience in administrative positions.

Overall, reviewers were enthusiastic about recommending this training program, as it would provide significant opportunities to students for engaging in stem cell research.