Year 5

In the fifth year of the CIRM UCSD Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Training Grant we continued to develop the pipeline of research excellence to supply California life sciences companies, academic and other medical centers, and investigative teams at research institutes.

In an open call for fellowship applications from our top basic science, engineering and medical students, postdocs, and physicians, we selected the most meritorious with different projects from diverse labs.
Seven pre-doctoral students, seven postdoctoral scholars, and five clinical fellows were appointed in the 2013-2014 group. Three of seven pre-doctoral fellows, three of seven postdocs and two of five clinical fellows were newly appointed. The CIRM UCSD Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Research and Training Program II holds high prestige and steady interest among applicants and faculty. The quality of pre and postdoctoral applicants is very high, with many MD and PhD candidates in the predoctoral pool and many published authors in the postdoc pool.

The improved pool makes stiff competition for appointments. The rigorous educational elements of the program, especially the multi-institutional and team-taught Core Course and the hands-on Laboratory Methods course taught in the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility (HESCCF) have attracted positive notice from faculty, postdocs, and students. The interdisciplinary focus and insistence on collaborative work has created a good reputation and people frequently inquire about how to apply. Many applicants have already completed the popular Stem Cell Course as graduate students, and many have previous experience with cell culture of hESC or human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC).
UCSD CIRM fellows actively participate in a program of special lab courses, didactic courses, research seminars, and journal clubs to present findings, build relationships, hone professionalism, and develop interdisciplinary contacts. The 2013-2014 trainees participated in the core course, building their own scholarly interactions. The Annual, multi-institutional retreat was held November, 2013, in the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (a CIRM Major Facility) to inspire scholarly interaction among the UCSD fellows and their Consortium colleagues at the Salk, Sanford-Burnham, and Scripps institutions. CIRM UCSD trainees also participated in the Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa VIII held October 16, 2013. Current and past UC San Diego CIRM Fellows presented their research on the role of stem cells in liver and colorectal cancer, the generation of replacement beta cells for diabetes therapy, and fundamental processes in the origin of cells of the nervous system. The meeting, as all our training events, integrated topics of ethics, social impact, translational medicine, and interaction with industry.

To date, the University of California San Diego CIRM Stem Cell Research & Training grant has provided fellowships to 87 UCSD fellows in 49 different labs in Engineering, Medicine, and Biological Sciences. Graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and physicians all have received research support, ethics training, and education in stem cell science and regenerative medicine, creating at UCSD, and throughout the world, an innovative, rigorously trained community of stem cell scholars, doctors, and innovators.

From oncologists to neurosurgeons, cardiac bioengineers to basic scientists, the Californians trained in the CIRM UCSD have made significant contributions to our knowledge and our health. Of the 89 fellows trained in the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Program, 72 remain in the state of California as vital members of our life sciences and medical communities. Twenty-five are physicians, with specialties including neurosurgery, maternal/fetal health, heart failure, pediatrics, and oncology. They bring advanced knowledge of stem cell science and ethics to their clinical practices. Eleven are in industry.

Their work continues to help attract significant federal funding, and their superb training allows them to immediately contribute to new scientific projects. Some of our early career researchers have attracted private funding to support their work on very difficult and meaningful problems, such as dissecting the processes of creating blood or understanding the way liver development goes wrong and results in cancer. Many trainees remain in Southern California, researching, practising medicine or contributing at innovative local companies.