CIRM 2.0 Awards SDSU Bridges to Stem Cell Research Internship Program $3,045,000

CIRM2.0_Logo_OrangeOn January 19, 2016, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Board (CIRM) voted to approve $3,045,000 to continue the SDSU Bridges to Stem Cell Research Internship Program (BSCRIP). This highly successful program was developed to cultivate the next generation of young scientists in San Diego and ensure that California remains in the forefront of stem cell discoveries aimed at helping patients with unmet needs. As a result of this vote, SDSU will receive five years of additional funding to build on our previous and highly successful training program.

Ralph Feuer, PhD., Program Director for SDSU BSCRIP and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology explained, “Stem cell-based treatment strategies represent the future of medicine for patients suffering from chronic disease and injury. Continued progress in the development and administration of these new therapies not only require ongoing basic and translational research, but also a sustainable approach whereby the next generation of scientists and technicians build upon the initial success of previous scientific accomplishments. A total of $40.13 million was awarded by the CIRM Board for stem cell internship programs across 15 CSU campuses, including SDSU, for five more years.

Highly competitive applicants will be recruited from the SDSU’s diverse student population, including individuals that might not otherwise have the opportunity to attain the expertise needed to undertake careers in regenerative medicine. A newly optimized curriculum for these trainees at the home institution includes a regulatory affairs course providing information about healthcare product regulation and development, a colloquium series, participation in a biomedical ethics course and activities designed to provide students with direct patient engagement and outreach activities engaging California’s diverse communities. These trainees will gain extensive hands-on training in the field through a comprehensive lab-training course in basic cell culture and maintenance of stem cells as well as a 12-month research internship at local host institutions investigating human stem cell therapies and disease models. During the internship period, trainees will attend research seminars, present their scientific progress at monthly colloquia to other trainees and participating host mentors and scientists, and present scientific posters at local and regional scientific meetings. Dr. Feuer suggested “the SDSU training program will enable students of diverse backgrounds to contribute their knowledge and technical skills developed upon completion of the training period to the great promise of stem cell-based treatment therapies for patients.”

To date, San Diego State University has trained 62 students from diverse backgrounds, who are now working in biotech or academic research laboratories or attending professional programs in the field of regenerative medicine. In addition, 10 SDSU interns are currently being trained through this program. SDSU has been awarded $4,200,000 in the seven-year period of our present Stem Cell Internship Program. The total award amount for the 12-year period of this highly successful program will be over $7,000,000; a small price to pay for the continued development of stem cell based therapies and acceleration of their eventual delivery to patients benefiting from these powerful new approaches.

Dr. Feuer also indicted that “due to cuts in federal funding for research biomedical students find the present environment to be a particularly challenging time to begin a scientific career. The BSCRIP program addresses both issues, financially supporting young scientists and providing internship opportunities as they get the experience they need to launch their biomedical career.

Randal Mills, Ph.D., the President and CEO of CIRM, stated “The goal of the Bridges program is to prepare undergraduate and Master’s level students in California for a successful career in stem cell research. That’s not just a matter of giving them money, but also of giving them good mentors who can help train and guide them, of giving them meaningful engagement with patients and patient advocates, so they have a clear vision of the impact the work they are doing can have on people’s lives.”

Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., Chair of the CIRM Board adds, “The Bridges program has been incredibly effective in giving young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, a shot at a career in science. Of the 700 students who have completed the program, 95 percent are either working in a lab, enrolled in school or applying to graduate school. Without the Bridges program this kind of career might have been out of reach for many of these students.”


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