Year 5

The UCSF CIRM training grant is a critical component of graduate and postgraduate education at this institution. This unique resource enables the training of individuals who will go on to basic research in a laboratory setting. The diverse nature of our faculty mentors assures that equal importance is given to educating trainees who are interested in translating research findings into clinical therapies. As a group, our past and current trainees include top tier young investigators in the field of regenerative medicine.
Our CIRM Scholars enter the program following a rigorous selection process. Open slots are widely advertised 4-6 weeks prior to the due date. The mechanisms include the listservs of our graduate programs, clinical chairs and The Eli & Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. Current mentors and trainees are ambassadors for our program. The application process is designed to be rigorous and fair. Prospective trainees write a three-page research plan, which is accompanied by the mentor’s individual training program and three letters of reference. This material, and the biographical sketches of the student and faculty member, provide a very complete picture of the applicant’s past accomplishments, planned experiments and future potential, information that is key to the integrity of the selection process. Reviews are conducted by an experienced faculty committee representing the broad range of stem cell-related activities at this institution. Formal written critiques are prepared and numerical scores given, which enable ranking. Many applicants apply. As a result, our trainees are from the top echelon.
As to Program activities, UCSF offers an outstanding environment for stem cell and regenerative medicine research, in general, and our CIRM trainees in particular. This includes a dozen formal seminar series. They also attend the Stem Cell Journal Club, a discussion of high profile recent papers, and the Stem Cell Workshop, where they present work in progress. Every major program at UCSF holds an annual retreat. Our CIRM Scholars are required to attend one of these events. Finally, they use their travel allowances to attend national and international meetings on various topics in the fields of stem cell and developmental biology, as well as more clinically oriented symposia as related to regenerative medicine therapies. This year our Scholars had the added benefit of attending the Third Annual Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Retreat that included speakers from UCSF, UCLA and USC. We also sponsor lunch-time get-togethers for all trainees, which are led by the Program Director. This venue is a valuable forum for research presentations and discussions, for example, ethical issues and career counseling.
The courses that our trainees take depend on their educational level. Graduate students are enrolled in formal instruction; the exact components of the curriculum depend on the program, most commonly Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences or Developmental and Stem Cell Biology. As their research interests mature, they sometimes seek additional coursework, for example, in computer programming. The postdoctoral fellows and physician-scientists tend to have completed their coursework and focus on research. However, (along with the graduate students) they participate in the program activities. They are required to take classroom instruction regarding the Responsible Conduct of Research and Ethical Issues as Related to Stem Cell Research. In addition, several elect to take our CIRM Shared Laboratory Training Course, and attend lectures in the graduate courses that are relevant to their research.
Our CIRM training grant benefits from having a very capable administrative head who works with additional staff in the office of The Eli & Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. The chief administrator assists the Program Director in all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the training grant. He monitors upcoming openings in the program and works with the Principal Investigator to strategize efforts to effectively and efficiently select new trainees. He also processes all appointments, renewals and terminations for the CIRM Fellows. He serves as a liaison between trainees, CIRM and institutional offices. Although not his primary duty, he helps the Program Director manage the financial aspects of this grant, which are handled by the office of The Broad Center. Our governance structure includes an Oversight Committee with members who are leaders in stem cell research and regenerative medicine.
In summary, our training program has been very successful. We are producing the next generation of leaders in stem cell/developmental biology and the translational and therapeutic applications that are emerging from these fields. Thus, our CIRM scholars are fueling the pipeline that will deliver stem cell-based therapies to the citizens of California.