Year 1

The goal of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) – funded stem cell biotechnology training program at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is to train exceptional and diverse students to enter the stem cell research workforce and accelerate the development of stem cell based therapies to treat or cure patients with unmet medical needs. They are recruited from the ~2,000 students in the CSULB Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences, and qualified post-baccalaureate students from other institutions. CSULB is a large (~38,000 students) comprehensive urban university at which nearly all of the students are California citizens (more than 95%). These students reflect the ethnic mosaic of the local communities and enrich the scientific enterprise with their unique perspectives. They also educate their communities by sharing the knowledge and experience they gain in this training program. The students enroll in the two-year stem cell track of the post-baccalaureate Biotechnology Certificate Program. The first year, at CSULB, consists of courses and research experience. To accelerate the development of therapies, required coursework, which includes Stem Cell Biology and Bioethics and Public Policy, was expanded to include an exploration of the drug development process and regulatory pathway. During the second year, ten interns perform full-time research in stem cell laboratories at Cedars-Sinai, City of Hope, and UC Irvine. Extensive mentoring, advising, and workshops throughout and after the program ensure successful academic and career placement for current participants and alumni. This program has a history of successfully training students for graduate study and for the California workforce.

To understand the importance and urgency of accelerating the development of stem cell therapies to treat patients with unmet medical needs, the students engaged in activities that engendered in them an appreciation of patients’ perspectives and experiences. The patient engagement activities required for all the CSULB-CIRM student interns included a workshop hosting a wheel-chair bound spinal cord injury patient and advocate from the Long Beach Veterans Administration Health Care System, another workshop hosting a Parkinson’s disease patient advocate and two patients, and direct interaction with patients and their families at two local children’s hospitals.

The CSULB stem cell interns also participated in various community outreach and education activities. On-campus outreach activities included a workshop about stem cell research and the internship presented by all the current stem cell interns, and poster presentations by some of the stem cell interns at the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Research Symposium. Some of the interns also presented to current high school biology teachers who are concurrently completing their M.S. degrees in the Science Education. These are active high school teachers in local school districts (spanning the Los Angeles basin). These teachers could immediately return to their classrooms and provide information about stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and the process and importance of research. Two other activities included panel presentations at a local community college and for a community civic leadership program, which trains a range of community members such as city officials, firemen, and nonprofit organization administrators.

Nearly one hundred percent of the students completing this program have been offered positions for further study or employment in the stem cell biotechnology workforce. Many of these students are currently employed in California as research technicians, others have continued their studies in M.S., Ph.D., or health professional programs (M.D., nursing, pharmacy), and a few are teaching science. During the internship the students are involved in a variety of projects including exploring cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, treating spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, and basic research on stem cell biology. Their research as interns has contributed to many scientific publications and clinical trials. The CIRM-funded stem cell biotechnology training program generates highly technically trained individuals who will enhance future biomedical research in California.