Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Regenerative Medicine, offered within the MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. Faculty from all three departments are involved in all aspects of the program. The MS specialization is a 2-year program, which includes one academic-year of coursework plus a course-capstone project at our institution, a two-week Pluripotent Cell Techniques Course at ThermoFisher Scientific, and a full-time/off-site nine-month internship at a non-profit research institution or for-profit biotech company.
During this reporting period, our ninth cohort (9 students) completed their course-capstone projects (working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at our institution), completed their internships (at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute, the University of California San Diego, ThermoFisher Scientific, and ViaCyte), and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the CIRM Trainee Meeting in mid-July. Also during this reporting period, our tenth cohort (10 students) completed their coursework and will complete their course-capstone project by the end of August, working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences. This cohort has already matched to their internship locations (at Genentech, Rubedo Life Science, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the University of California, San Diego, and ViaCyte) and after their Stem Cell Techniques Course at ThermoFisher, will start on Sep 1. Finally, our eleventh cohort (11 students) was admitted to the program and will begin coursework in the fall.
The graduates of this program have strengthened the future of cell-based therapies in California by contributing to all aspects of the field, both directly and in-directly. Graduates of our program are directly strengthening stem cell research and regenerative medicine by performing fundamental investigations in both academic laboratories (as research associates and doctoral students) and for-profit companies, developing and manufacturing regenerative medicine products at biotech companies, and participating in clinical-trial organization. Additionally, our graduates who are employed at for-profit companies in the medical device sector are indirectly benefiting the field by providing their regenerative medicine perspective to traditional device product design and development.
Detailed Description of Training Program
Our core coursework (i.e. courses taken by students from all three majors) is laboratory intensive, and includes Tissue Engineering, Biomedical Imaging, Cell Transplantation, and Molecular Techniques. In these courses, student learn to grow cells and tissues, evaluate native and engineered tissue structure, label cellular structures and proteins, perform all manner of advanced optical microscopy, perform microsurgery to induce rodent disease models and test cell-based therapies, and learn fundamental molecular techniques, such as PCR, nucleic acid isolation, and cloning. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly Regenerative Medicine Seminar, a seminar-style Principles of Stem Cell Biology course, and an activity course in Communicating Biology. Through this coursework, students learn both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that are important for stem cell research/regenerative medicine and gain important preparation for their internship projects.
Before embarking on their internship, students finish their training with a capstone project. The capstone project challenges students to apply the knowledge and skills gained through the coursework to an open-ended project. This allows the students to complete and receive feedback on a project with a report and presentation before embarking on a rigorous 9-month project that culminates in an extensive report and presentation. Examples of projects from the tenth cohort include directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells, development of organoid models for drug screening, evaluating the phenotype of cells comprising tissue engineered blood vessels, and studying regeneration in a marine invertebrate, among others.
After completing their coursework, our student begin their internship with one of our partners, listed above. Our internship partners provide a wide variety of project opportunities for our students, from fundamental biological studies in academic labs to device engineering at for-profit companies, and encompass several of the major physiological systems- blood and cardiovascular, neural, and endocrine. Over the 9-month internship, students work full-time, live away from their home institution, and do not enroll in any formal coursework, so they can focus all of their efforts on the internship project.