Interdisciplinary Training in Stem Cell Biology, Engineering and Medicine

Funding Type: 
Research Training II
Grant Number: 
Award Value: 
Public Abstract: 
This proposed Comprehensive Training Program will include 16 CIRM Scholars, three clinical fellows, eight postdoctoral fellows, and five pre-doctoral fellows. Our multidisciplinary program will provide training opportunities in stem cell biology, engineering, and medicine, with a focus on applying stem cell research toward the goal of treating human disease. Coursework offered as a part of this program will cover basic stem cell biology and current and potential uses of stem cells in regenerative medicine, as well as ethical, legal and social issues in stem cell research. CIRM Scholars' research projects may investigate fundamental biomedical problems such as the molecular basis of stem cell pluripotency, stem cell differentiation into mature tissues such as blood, nerve and muscle, or the reduction of stem cell regenerative capacity with ageing. CIRM Scholars whose expertise is in engineering may work to develop controlled environments for expansion and tissue-specific differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, or devices to enable or evaluate the results of stem cell transplantation. Clinical Fellows will integrate basic and translational research, with particular emphasis on cord blood transplantation for genetic or malignant blood diseases. This program will train leading young physicians, scientists and engineers who will contribute to the understanding of stem cell biology and to the development of stem cell-based therapies, as well as advancing the medical, intellectual, technological and economic strength of the State of California.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
This proposed training program will develop highly skilled scientists, engineers, and clinical researchers to help ensure California’s continued leadership in biomedical research and engineering. The basic biological research component of this program seeks to identify molecules or biochemical pathways that could function as targets for enhancing or blocking stem cell differentiation. The resulting information could thus serve as a catalyst for drug development. Translational research projects that will be part of the proposed program include development of synthetic materials to support stem cell culture and tissue engineered blood vessel or nerve grafts. The program also includes engineering of novel equipment for imaging and isolation of stem cells. A primary goal of this work is to build new products to be developed and marketed by California biotechnology companies for research and clinical use. The clinical research component of our proposed program will attempt to expand the circumstances under which umbilical cord blood transplantation can be used to cure genetic blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. These conditions afflict a significant number of individuals in California, particularly in underserved populations, and require expensive and tissue-damaging treatment throughout patients’ lives. Success of this program will benefit the State of California by providing extended and enhanced quality of life for patients with genetic blood diseases, as well as a reduction in the anticipated amount of medical treatment cured patients will require over their lifetime.
Progress Report: 
Our program provides training in scientific, ethical and regulatory concepts for future stem cell researchers at several stages of their professional development. Annually five students working towards the PhD degree, eight postdoctoral fellows undertaking additional training before becoming independent scientists, and three physicians building academic careers in medical research are selected as CIRM Scholars through a highly competitive application process. The CIRM Scholars are primarily engaged in performing research, and through their creativity and diligence, are essential contributors to numerous ongoing stem cell research projects funded by CIRM and by other biomedical research funding agencies. They make important discoveries that are published in scientific journals, participate in the development of intellectual property, and contribute to the training of undergraduate students. The CIRM Scholars program attracts to California a cohort of highly talented aspiring stem cell scientists from around the world. As their training progresses, they develop into independent scientists who will direct their own stem cell research programs at universities, research institutions and biomedical technology companies. Many will stay in California after the completion of their training, contributing to the strength of our high technology economy and outstanding higher education infrastructure.