The mission of the Research Training Program in Stem Cell Biology is to train CIRM Scholars scientists at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels in the fundamental biology of stem cells and strategies for translating this knowledge towards treatment of diseases. By developing effective scientists and leaders in the stem cell field, this training will enhance stem cell-based biomedical research efforts in academia and industry, and promote the development of novel therapies for previously intractable diseases. Our institution is in a particularly advantageous position to undertake this training because of our tradition of programs in which research efforts cross-fertilize with experimental medicine and clinical practice. As an institution with emerging stem cell research programs, we are proposing a Type III training program for two predoctoral and four postdoctoral CIRM Scholars. To prepare CIRM Scholars to be productive researchers in collaborative and disease-oriented research environments in academia or in industry, we propose a program of course work and independent research. The didactic curriculum will be administered under the auspices of the Graduate School of Biological Sciences, which offers a Ph.D. program building on strengths in fundamental biology and emphasizing basic and translational research into chronic diseases including cancer and diabetes. Courses in fundamental stem cell biology and in ethical issues in stem cell research, a hands-on practicum on working with stem and pluripotent cells, and a multi-campus course on stem cell research linking together area institutions, will be augmented with professional forums including a training grant-supported seminar series, a stem cell journal club and a dedicated session at the annual retreat. Research training will occur within a unique environment with long-standing interests in stem cell-related therapies and investigations into underlying fundamental mechanisms. These include therapeutic programs in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, pancreatic islet cell transplantation, and cell-based eradication of brain tumor cells, along with research into leukemia development, cancer stem cells and tumorigenesis, islet cell-directed embryonic stem cell differentiation, and neural progenitor cell targeting of glioma cells. Trainees will be mentored by a cohort of dedicated faculty, and will receive support to present the results of their work at national and international stem cell meetings. All trainees will also be able to draw on the career development resources of the school including classes in scientific writing, strategic grant preparation, and effective delivery of oral presentations, along with career counseling services.
Statement of Benefit to California:
Stem cell-based therapies provide a new approach to treating intractable and chronic diseases. Realization of this potential will require training scientists to study the fundamental properties of stem cells along with strategies for translating experimental findings into clinical practice. Our proposal details assembly of research training program in stem cell biology whose goal will be to educate the most promising predoctoral and postdoctoral students in stem cell biology, and give them research training so that they can become independent investigators in academia or industry. Our hope is that exposing trainees to the unique aspects of institution will enable them to eventually develop novel stem cell-based approaches against diseases that have not been targeted by other therapeutic methods. Any progress towards reducing the impact of these diseases will be of immense benefit to the State of California and its citizens
Year 1The mission of the Research Training Program in Stem Cell Biology at City of Hope (CoH) is to train CIRM Scholars at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels in the fundamental biology of stem cells and in strategies for translating this knowledge towards treatment of diseases. The program was initiated in December 2009. Thirteen CIRM Scholars, nine postdoctoral and four predoctoral, have participated to date. As of July 2013, one postdoctoral trainee has obtained a research position, five Scholars have completed the training program (3 postdoctoral fellows and 2 predoctoral students); six scholars are participating in the training program (4 postdoctoral fellows and 2 predoctoral fellows), and a search is underway to fill one available postdoctoral slot.
A key element of the program is maximum feasible participation of CIRM Scholars in all campus stem cell activities.
(1) Formal Educational Components
Enrollment in the courses Stem Cells in Biology and Medicine, and Social, Legal and Ethical Implications of Stem Cell Research, and the Stem Cell Journal Club, is required for all CIRM Scholars. In addition, the Stem Cell Seminar Series and the Annual Conference on Bringing Stem Cell Discoveries to the Clinic are forums in which CIRM Scholars are integrated into the larger stem cell research community.
One major goal of these organized events is to have the training program serve as a nexus for multiple campus stem cell-related activities. Therefore, they are open to other graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and the institute at large, as appropriate. Increasing general interest has been reflected by growing attendance and participation by faculty and others in these activities.
Stem Cells in Biology and Medicine Course
The multi-campus course “Stem Cells in Biology and Medicine” was organized jointly by CoH, USC and CHLA. The course, the second offering of which ran from August to December 2012, consists of two sessions per week, each running 2 hours, with basic science lectures paired with translational or clinical lectures on the related subjects. Real-time sharing of PowerPoint presentations and separate images of lecturers and/or audience members over an electronic link during the lectures and question sessions enables presentations to be given and received locally, and are also posted on a course web site. The course was also an Advanced Topics offering for CoH graduate students, who are required to take two such courses for graduation. It was advertised campus-wide, and was open to all interested parties. As with all graduate-level CoH courses, students were surveyed for feedback on each lecturer and the course as a whole. It has been well received.
Social, Legal and Ethical Implications of Stem Cell Research Course
This multi-campus course was also offered cooperatively with USC and CHLA in spring 2011. Five lecture/discussions sessions on stem cell ethics were followed by three sessions where students on each campus organized reading/discussion sessions on relevant issues. Grades were based on participation in classroom discussion and the student-organized presentations. This course was built upon, and extended, earlier required workshops in Responsible Conduct of Research for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows. A revised version of this course is in planning and development.
Presentation Skills Course
This is a monthly training course held over one year. The five main components necessary for scientific success are: (i) Presentations to a scientific audience; (ii) Presentations to a lay audience; (iii) Posters; (iv) Job interviews; and (v) Chalk talks. Each scholar is given the opportunity to prepare and deliver presentations for each component to their peers and the program leadership. At the conclusion of each presentation CIRM Scholars and program leadership provide feedback and critique. This course has improved the presentation skills of each of the students through both delivery and structure.
(2) Other program activities
Stem Cell Journal Club
The training grant-sponsored campus-wide journal club meets weekly. Each CIRM Scholar presents at least one paper annually; each presentation is followed by a small group review with faculty leaders and other CIRM scholars.
The Stem Cell Group Seminar Series
Sponsored jointly by the training program and the Office of New Research Initiatives, this series meets monthly. Speakers have included key California stem cell scientists as well as other national and international researchers. Each presentation is followed by a small hosted lunch to which CIRM Scholars are invited as appropriate.
Annual Conference on Bringing Stem Cell Discoveries to the Clinic
This annual conference at the City of Hope is organized by the Office of New Research Initiatives and funded by CIRM in partnership with countries where stem cell research is a priority. CIRM Scholars are given an opportunity to meet on their home campus with stem cell investigators from abroad.