Bridges to Stem Cell Research

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01185
Investigator: 
Award Value: 
$2,796,412
Status: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Our Bridges to Stem Cell Research program will have 7 components: 1) Partnership with two local community colleges to diversify the potential population of interns, 2) Internships at three host institutions, one a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a commercial company. This will provide research experiences that occur in diverse environments, each with their own institutional emphasis. 3) Students will receive academic course credit that will allow them to continue earning credit towards their degrees while conducting their internship research. 4) Development of cell culture courses on the student’s campuses to provide them with training prior to entering their internship. 5) Development of a Stem Cell Techniques training course at a Shared Research Laboratory to provide advanced training in embryonic stem cells prior to entering their internship. 6) Development of two general education course modules to educate the broader population in stem cells. 7) Mentorship of students, including academic counseling, preparation for application to advanced programs, and opportunities for presentation of research results. Over the three year period of the grant, we will train 20 undergraduate students and 6 Master's level graduate students. Because of our strong base in the underrepresented Hispanic population, along with other underrepresented minorities, women, and students with disabilities, our Stem Cell Internship program promises to not only provide appropriately qualified graduates in the relevant disciplines, but to provide diversity in these graduates as well. Our goal is to prepare these students for acceptance into an advanced educational program or entry into the stem cell workforce. We are partnering with two local community college campuses to further diversify the pool of internship candidates and to broaden the impact of this program on students in this area of California. A new component in the curriculum at each campus will be to develop courses to allow students to gain both a theoretical and practical background in tissue culture, along with an introduction to stem cell research. For host internship sites, we will send students to stem cell laboratories at three institutions; one is a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a private company. One of our host campuses is a Shared Research Laboratory recipient and will develop a stem cell techniques laboratory course using human embryonic stem cells. All students in our program will take this course prior to their 6-month (undergrad) or 12-month (grad) internship. To educate the broader student population, we will develop modules that discuss stem cells, including the ethics of stem cell research, within two General Education courses. These courses reach approximately 1500 students each year.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

The passage of Proposition 71 – Cures for Californians has provided a landmark opportunity to pursue the development of stem cells to provide therapeutic treatments. California will need highly trained technicians in addition to the senior scientists in order to carry out the basic and applied research. Our Bridges to Stem Cell Research proposal will assist in meeting the goal of developing a well trained and diverse workforce. Because of our strong base in the underrepresented Hispanic population, along with other underrepresented minorities, women, and students with disabilities, our Stem Cell Internship program promises to not only provide appropriately qualified graduates in the relevant disciplines, but to provide diversity in these graduates as well. To educate the broader student population, we will develop modules that discuss stem cells, including the ethics of stem cell research, within two General Education courses. Our Stem Cell Internship program will have 7 components: 1) Partnership with two local community colleges to diversify the potential population of interns, 2) Internships at three host institutions, one a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a commercial company. This will provide research experiences that occur in diverse environments, each with their own institutional emphasis. 3) Students will receive academic course credit that will allow them to continue earning credit towards their degrees while conducting their internship research. 4) Development of cell culture courses on the student’s campuses to provide them with training prior to entering their internship. 5) Development of a Stem Cell Techniques training course at a Shared Research Laboratory to provide advanced training in embryonic stem cells prior to entering their internship. 6) Development of two general education course modules to educate the broader population in stem cells. 7) Mentorship of students, including academic counseling, preparation for application to advanced programs, and opportunities for presentation of research results. Over the three year period of the grant, we will train 20 undergraduate students and 6 Master's level graduate students. Our goal is to prepare these students for acceptance into an advanced educational program or entry into the stem cell workforce.

Progress Report: 

The CIRM Bridges program at CSUSB has been by all measures a resounding success. CSUSB is a Hispanic serving institution that serves the largest and one of the poorest counties in California. The majority of the Biology students who are attending our institution only see professional schools as a preferred career choice. In reality only a small percentage of our students gets admission to these programs. Work force development is one of the key missions of the school along of course with the vision of providing educational opportunities to the region that it serves. In the three years that the grant has been in operation, we have awarded internships to 28 students and we have definitely realized outstanding outcomes. All students became highly trained in stem cell biology,they were trained to present their data in public venues and had either a six month or twelve month internship opportunity.
The reports that we got both from the host labs and the students themselves have been nothing but positive. From the first year cohort, two of the interns went on to graduate schools (UCR and Stanford) and the rest got positions as technicians both in small biotech companies or academic research lab. The second year cohort of ten also had also great outcomes. They got admitted to medical school, graduate school or were hired in some of the forefront stem cell labs in Southern California. Third year cohort just finished so we don't have any data at this time. The program director, the faculty involved in the training and the host lab observations have been that we have a solid training program that enables the student to be very competitive in this burgeoning research area. All the student who were hired as research technicians this last year, were hired by CIRM grantees.

The CIRM Bridges training program in the 2014 funding cycle has enabled 2 graduate and 9 undergraduate students to receive research training and experience in stem cell labs at University of California Riverside, Loma Linda University, Beckman Research Institute, Children's Hospital Orange County, University of Southern California.and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The grant has also enabled CSUSB-Biology Department to offer a variety of courses ( Stem Cell Biology, Animal Tissue Culture , Stem Cells and Society) that have educated more than 200 students in both the science and the ethics aspects of stem cell biology.
The students who are part of the fourth year cohort are still either finishing their undergraduate or masters degrees so we do not have final outcomes for them. For the third year cohort we have a number of students who are in graduate programs, working as research techs or are in professional schools.
The success of the training program, in a geographic area that has profound financial challenges and limited opportunities for our students, we see this program as a definite watershed.

Our Bridges to Stem Cell Research program just matriculated its fifth year cohort. We have a very successful recruitment protocol in place that ensures a well qualified and diverse pool of students that we can draw from. In each of the past years we have continued to educate our recruited students in tissue culture techniques and stem cell biology. They received further training with a human and mammalian ESC course at UC Riverside. Once the training completed they were successfully place in host facilities which included UC Riverside, City of Hope Medical Center, UC Irvine, Loma Linda University, Stanford University, University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. All interns presented their work at the annual CIRM Bridges meeting and several of this year's cohort will be presenting their work at the Inland Empire Stem Cell Consortium. We also have vibrant and very active Student Society for Stem Cell Research that has organized many outreach projects within our immediate community and last year organized a very successful Stem Cell Symposium on our campus that was attended by more than 200 students and stem cell researchers. The program also was very successful in educating (~ 200 undergraduates on our campus) about stem cells and stem cell therapies.

The majority of the students from the last cohort have not yet matriculated from our campus and as such we do not have outcomes for year 5 cohort. We expect that this group will have similar successes as those achieved by students from previous cohorts. Overall we have a 90%+ success rate in enabling our students to either get hired as research/lab technicians or gain admission to Ph.D. granting programs in regenerative medicine or professional schools. We have research technicians at City of Hope Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Cedars Sinai Hospital, John Wayne Cancer Institute, California Institute of Technology, UC Riverside and also at a couple of biotech companies. Some of our interns are completing their Ph.D. M.D. D.V.M and Pharmacy degrees at top tier programs at Stanford University, University of Massachusetts, and UCLA. Our interns have co-authored more than 15 publications as a result on their research they completed while in the program. As such it is certainly the case that our program has directly and indirectly contributed to and strengthened the future of stem cell research in California. These outcomes can be very elegantly summarized in a recent letter the program director received from a year two cohort intern.
"The CIRM Bridges internship was a tremendous opportunity that I am fortunate to have had. It was the first real exposure I had to research and it acted as a springboard to my career. I have the opportunity to pursue what I love and care for patients because of the grant from CIRM. More than that though, I get to see these patients who are suffering and know that by the time I finish my residency program these ailments may have a better answer. It’s striking and empowering to think that the work I did and the work my peers continue to pursue may play a part in that. The training at my home institute was the most translational coursework I had during my studies. For this reason, it made up the most interesting undergraduate work I took part in. The Bridges internship gave me a foundation of the core fundamentals of science, medicine, and healing. I had an opportunity to act with autonomy and ask questions while working with my mentors to search for answers. The CIRM Bridges program has broadened the horizons of so many individuals and extended opportunities in science and medicine that would otherwise be unachievable. These students are on the cutting edge. After our training we go on to act as forerunners in our fields pushing advancement...... Yes, I walked out with a grasp of regenerative medicine that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, but the skills and outlook I acquired have been applicable to every aspect of my career. Upon entering medical school at UCLA, I found that my experience working in regenerative medicine gave me a unique perspective in relation to my classmates. Diving into primary literature came easy and I looked at pathology with inquiry. This view is a fundamental part of being a physician, and the Bridges program was the start of my road to lifelong learning. I encountered disease. The diseases made me think back to my fellow Bridges awardees’ work as I related pathologies to people. I had colleagues who were making rounds at the bench-top to help these patients I now see at the bedside. I cannot express how vital it is that students continue to have the opportunity to pursue a question in the way I did. The students at CSUSB bring a unique perspective from a very diverse background to the field of translational medicine. We all work towards a cure, and these students need to continue to have an opportunity to do that."