The promise of stem cell (SC) based therapy for human illnesses has long been recognized and Californian voters created the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in order to generate new knowledge about SC, to develop effective and safe SC based therapies and to train the next generation of SC scientists. Our nation’s biomedical research workforce too heavily depends on foreign talents. The US must urgently invest in the training and career development of its own talents, particularly minority students. The CIRM ought to assume a prominent role in the training of future SC scientists starting at the high school (HS) level. A summer research and college preparatory program for inner city HS students was established at a major Californian pediatric center in 2005. Students perform hands-on research for six weeks relevant to childhood diseases (cancer, infections, injury, diabetes, developmental defects) and participate in college preparatory workshops. Graduates attend some of the nations top colleges including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and many campuses of the University of California. CIRM support will be used to train up to 10 minority interns in laboratory-based SC research. They will learn the method of science, perform hands-on experiments and present their research to the public. They will complete a visual art project focusing on one aspect of SC research. A program evaluation will determine the impact and the student’s academic outcome.
Statement of Benefit to California:
The enormous therapeutic potential of stem cells (SC) has long been recognized and bone marrow SC have successfully been used to cure patients with blood diseases. Californian voters created the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in order to further the understanding of SC, to develop new, effective and safe SC based therapies and to train the next generation of SC scientists. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2025, more than 50% of all US high school (HS) students will be children of current minorities, 75% of them being Hispanics. Only approximately 50% of today’s Hispanic students graduate from HS. Our nation’s biomedical research workforce heavily depends on foreign talents and in order to stay competitive we must urgently invest in the training and career development of our own youth, particularly minority students. We believe that our existing minority research-training program for HS students provides a unique opportunity to advance the field of SC biology, to promote the careers of inner city students and to create a pool of future SC scientists. Ultimately, all involved stakeholders benefit from the career development of young Californians in SC research since students increase their knowledge and skills, school communities learn about the importance of SC research and the student’s families gain from successful sons and daughters. Importantly, biomedical research enterprises benefit from exposure to the richness of diverse cultures.
This program has an established track record with an emphasis on recruiting students from underrepresented groups. Reviewers considered the Program Director to be well qualified and committed to outreach programs and science training. Reviewers were also supportive of the counseling, financial advising and SAT preparation services provided to the program’s students. However, there were a number of serious concerns that significantly diminished reviewer enthusiasm. First, the proposal lacked critical details in every area and appeared to have unrealistic expectations. Reviewers found that the proposal was not well organized and was poorly written. Another concern was the lack of information about the selection committee or the potential mentors who would be hosting the students in their labs. Reviewers also raised concerns about the selection process and suggested that students targeted for recruitment are those likely to excel whether or not they participate in the program. In summary, reviewers agreed that the program has some noteworthy components and a good track record for serving students from underrepresented groups; however, there were numerous concerns regarding the admission process, mentorship, and program activities that significantly lowered reviewer enthusiasm.
- A motion was made not to recommend this application for funding. The motion carried.