Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Regenerative Medicine, offered within the MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. 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, and a full-time/off-site nine-month internship at a non-profit research institution or for-profit biotech company. Students also complete patient-engagement activities throughout the program.
During this reporting period, our tenth cohort (10 students) completed their course-capstone projects, completed their internships, and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the CIRM Trainee Meeting in early-July. Also during this reporting period, our eleventh cohort (11 students) completed their coursework and will complete their course-capstone project by the end of August, working with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. This cohort has already matched to their internship (at CSL Behring, Rubedo Life Science, T-Cure Bioscience, ThermoFisher Scientific, the University of California San Diego, and ViaCyte) and will start after their Stem Cell Techniques Course. Finally, our twelfth 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. 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 in the medical device sector are indirectly benefiting the field by providing their regenerative medicine perspective to traditional device product design and development.
Our core coursework (i.e. courses taken by students from all three majors) is laboratory intensive, and includes Tissue Engineering, Cell Transplantation, and Molecular Techniques. In these courses, student learn to grow cells and tissues, evaluate native and engineered tissue structure, direct the performance of micro-surgeric procedures to induce rodent disease models and test cell therapies, and learn fundamental molecular techniques, such as DNA amplification, nucleic acid isolation, and cloning. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly 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 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 eleventh cohort include bioprinting cell constructs for transplantation, evaluating novel scaffolds for 3D models of tumor metastasis, and developing a yeast model to student HIV infection, 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- immune, 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.
In the first year of the Program, students read a memoir about surviving a heart attack/bypass, watch a movie about living with spinal muscle atrophy, and count carbs like a diabetic for 2 days. They also participate in community events, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Walk. In the second year, students participate in a number of patient advocacy events to gain an appreciation for the patient’s perspective of dealing with an unmet clinical need.