Funding opportunities

[REDACTED] Stem Cell Training Alliance

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01179
Funds requested: 
$1 293 688
Funding Recommendations: 
Not recommended
Grant approved: 
No
Public Abstract: 
[REDACTED], have formed the [REDACTED] Stem Cell Training Alliance (SCTA) to train 26 stem cell scientists and technicians in the field of regenerative medicine within the next three years. California has an emerging need for well-trained researchers and technicians in the rapidly advancing stem cell research field. Proposition 71’s primary goal is to find therapies for devastating diseases and disorders by using novel stem cell technology advances. These advances are generating a need for a research workforce now and new jobs will be created as research moves into clinical trials. The SCTA program involves curricular enhancement and laboratory courses in stem cell research that will be integrated into existing certificate, undergraduate and Master's programs. The Program will stress mammalian cell culture and hands-on stem cell research techniques. Students accepted to SCTA will participate in 6 and 12-month research internships at innovative stem cell research labs, including [REDACTED]. The internships will provide the exceptional laboratory experience needed to develop students’ research skills and to prepare them as highly competitive researchers and technicians in stem cell research. It is expected that students trained in stem cell research will enter the Biotechnology workforce or a Ph.D. program fully prepared. SCTA will further serve the community through an outreach program that will recruit top high school students interested in biology to either the CCs or [REDACTED]. Our program will implement extracurricular activities such as invited lecturers from recognized authorities in the stem cell field, student presented journal clubs, a scientific poster workshop and an SCTA scholar retreat in which participating students will present their work. The SCTA retreat will be open to the public and accessible to the general population. The outreach program will also target middle school students and will instruct teachers in stem cell education further promoting SCTA’s program as students enter secondary education. SCTA will offer a general education stem cell course, which will include topics in basic research, medical therapeutics and socio-ethical issues and will be open to the broader student population to create widespread awareness of stem cell research advances. With the added strengths of the degree and certificate programs offered by [REDACTED] and the CCs and their solid reputation in training the biotechnology workforce, the SCTA Program is positioned to support an outstanding, highly competitive training program that will benefit our talented students, the institutions serving as hosts for our interns, the field of regenerative medicine and most of all the citizens of the State of California.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Stem cell research technology as applied to medical therapeutics is in its infancy and requires a pipeline of well-trained scientists and technicians in stem cell techniques to enter the new jobs created by advances in the field. The proposed [REDACTED] Stem Cell Training Alliance (SCTA) Program responds to the need for well-trained stem cell researchers by: • Providing a pool of diverse, well-trained, skilled individuals to participate in stem cell research in private and academic institutions. As interns alongside host research lab mentors, our students will contribute to moving stem cell research from theory to commercialization. The SCTA Program will benefit the people of California by providing high quality training to 26 undergraduate and graduate bioscience students from [REDACTED]. The interns will have the opportunity to participate directly in the advancement of stem cell research and work with leading molecular, cell and developmental biologists within the regenerative medicine field. In the end, students will have the opportunity to benefit Californians through their work in the advancement of novel therapies and their knowledge (social, ethical, legal) of stem cell research. • Creating synergy between [REDACTED] with industry representing stem cell research. The partnership will allow the sharing of curriculum, resources, faculty expertise and industry partnerships by providing expanded opportunities in various cell/molecular research and technology fields. The mission of California Community Colleges is to prepare students for employment or transfer to four-year universities. The [REDACTED] partnership will open opportunities with the common goal of education and training in stem cell research. Students will benefit from the credit articulation agreements defined by the partners. Expanded industry and academia relationships will broaden the partners’ visibility creating a direct link to employers in the field of stem cell research. • Bridging our undergraduate and graduate programs to allow students to continue their education into a career in research. Our community colleges’ well-established pathways to biotechnology starting in high school will feed this pipeline through college and into the SCTA Program. Upon completion of our program, SCTA scholars will have the opportunity to enter the field of regenerative medicine as skilled researchers or research technicians, or have the required qualifications to enter a Ph.D. program. • Helping the general public understand the valuable applications and therapies that will emerge from stem cell research-based therapies. Through our outreach programs, the general public will learn the benefits such therapies can have on treating devastating disorders and diseases that provoke disability and loss of earning power and personal freedom.
Review Summary: 
This is a proposal for a collaboration between the applicant home institution and two community colleges to develop a Bridges Program for undergraduate (6-month internships) and Master’s students (12-month internships). The participating students will be trained in laboratories at 4 host institutions from academia and industry, with 4 laboratories committed to training students. They intend to enroll a total of 16 undergraduate and 10 graduate students over 3 years. The two partner colleges currently offer biotechnology programs, and all 3 home institutions plan to add a stem cell component to their mammalian cell culture course. Furthermore, the applicants propose to develop a novel course that has a very broad set of aims including the study of social, political, and religious implications of stem cell research. Students will interact on a monthly basis with a faculty mentor from their home institution, and top students will serve as tutors for other students. Additional yearly activities include a retreat, abstract/poster workshop, and a high school outreach program. Reviewers expressed only limited enthusiasm for this proposal. They felt it was poorly written, and described the proposed training plan as overly complex and not clearly established. The proposal lacked a rationale as to why the 3 schools were selected to partner, and little information was provided about the composition of the student body and the success of the home institutions in advancing students. In theory, the proposed course work was judged appropriate, but many of the planned courses are not yet in place and will need to be developed if this application is funded. Not knowing who will teach the didactic and the lab courses left reviewers uncertain about the level of expertise of the instructors. For educational enhancement, it is stated that students will attend lectures given by notable scientists. However, reviewers questioned whether the applicants will be able to regularly attract such speakers. A strong component of this proposal is the commitment of biotechnology companies to offer 6-12 month internship experiences to students from community colleges. However, reviewers questioned whether a 6-month laboratory experience for undergraduate students would be valuable to the students or the mentoring laboratories. Overall, reviewers were uncertain that the proposed activities could be developed into a coherent and successful program. Letters of support from the home institutions, including one from the dean of the applicant institution, convey strong enthusiasm about the proposed program, and partnering arrangements with the host institutions and for a course at a prominent university were considered firm. However, a reviewer questioned the role and commitment of the proposed biotechnology partners to the training for stem cell research. The program director is a junior faculty member at the applicant institution and has a moderate record of scientific achievement and limited experience in administration. Furthermore, he/she has no background in stem cell research. Reviewers were confident that the program director is highly dedicated to teaching and mentoring, having been heavily involved in minority recruiting during his/her graduate studies. A strength of the program is the apparent certainty that it will include a significant proportion of minorities among the trainees. Reviewers criticized the lack of institutional commitment to mentoring the program director at this early and critical stage at the beginning of his/her career. Reviewers also criticized the composition of the advisory committee, as it mainly consists of deans and CEOs. Without senior faculty, the advisory committee will lack important expertise to be involved in the placement of interns or in the evaluation of the success and direction of a relatively complex program. Although reviewers liked several aspects of this proposal, such as the proposed partnerships with industry laboratories, the course at a prominent university, and the recruitment of minority trainees, the proposal was considered too confusing, the proposed plan too complex, and the Program Director too inexperienced to instill confidence in its future success.
Conflicts: 

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