The training program exploits the unique strengths of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in chemistry and biology to provide an interdisciplinary stem cell training program that incorporates teaching and research in chemistry, functional genomics, and molecular genetics. The goal of this proposal is to train scientists for future careers in basic or applied research in the field of stem cell biology, with a particular emphasis on training coworkers at the interface of chemistry and biology in order to more effectively apply chemical tools and approaches to basic research and the development of new therapeutic approaches in regenerative medicine. The program also take advantage of the unique strength of the TSRI in applying genomics, proteomics and glycomics, and genetics to biological questions. This requires a training program that brings together graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the biology and chemistry disciplines in order to (1) educate them in the basic biology, methods, and applications in embryonic and adult stem cell biology; (2) cross train them in the principles and approaches that chemists and biologists apply to biological problems; (3) foster research collaborations between chemists and biologists in the stem cell field; and (4) stimulate an awareness of the problems and ethical issues associated with basic and applied stem cell research. This training program benefits from close interactions within the San Diego Consortium of Regenerative Medicine (SDCRM) (TSRI, UCSD, Salk, Sanford Burnham) including collaborative research projects and joint seminar programs, classes, and workshops.
In the past year, the program has trained 10 fellows in a wide range of stem-cell related topics. Each fellow has participated in the inter-institutional Core Course in Stem Cell Biology, Medicine and Ethics that is taught by the faculty from TSRI, UCSD, Salk, and Sanford Burnham. Participants had also access to facilities that allow them to obtain practical training in such topics as the culturing of human stem cells, high-throughput screening of chemical libraries, and high-throughput screening using genomic tools (whole genome and siRNA libraries). In addition, trainees carried out active research in the laboratories of their mentors covering a variety of disease-relevant research topics such as: (i) the generation of human neural progenitors and neuronal subtypes using iPS technology; (ii) high-throughput chemical screens to identify compounds that can induce oligodendrocyte precusor differentiation for the treatment of demyelination disesases; (iii) the generation of disease specific cell types from human cells using iPS technology to mimic diseases such as Fragile-X and nicotine addiction; (iv) the generation of stem cell tools and neurons to study neocortical development and disease; (v) the differentiation of adipocyte stem cells for the treatment of metabolic disorder. Trainees are provided with opportunities to present their research on conferences and attend the Annual SDCRM fellows retreat (at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in San Diego), the Stem Cell on the Mesa conference (at the Salk Institute in San Dieog), and the CIRM funded stem cell conference (in San Francisco).
The training program has already significantly impacted stem cell research in California. The most direct impact is probably in form of support of research and development programs at academic institutions, biotechnololgy companies and pharma industry with well-trained fellows. Several of the predoctoral trainees from the program have progressed to postdoctoral positions, while several postdoctoral fellows have accepted positions in companies where they use their knowledge in stem cell research for the development of therapeutics. The program has also enabled researchers that were not previously involved in stem cell research to enter the field by training students and postdoctoral fellows in their laboratory through the mechanisms offered by the training program.