CIRM Approves $1.7 Million Grant for Stem Cell Research Training

Internships will provide students with a stipend and tuition while they train for post-college careers in stem cell biology.

The governing board for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state stem cell agency, has given tentative approval for a $1.7 million grant that would fund an internship program administered through the Office for Biomedical Research and Training at Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM). The program would allow for the recruitment of 30 students from CSUSM, Miramar College, and MiraCosta College over a three-year period, providing them with educational and technical training in stem cell research.

Stem cell biology has developed into a rapidly expanding technology offering novel therapeutic approaches to human disease. California has taken the lead in the development and expansion of these technologies and the San Diego region in particular is quickly becoming a hub for stem cell research. However, there is critical need to recruit, educate, and train the next generation of scientists that will work on achieving these goals.

The focus of the program at CSUSM will be to engage a diverse pool of students in internships with academic and biotech labs, providing them with the educational and technical skills that will allow them to pursue future careers in stem-cell research. Students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at premier biotechnology companies including the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, The Scripps Research Institute, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies while earning a stipend of $2,500 per month. Participating students will also have their tuition paid in full by the grant up to $5,000. Participating labs will receive a small remuneration to offset any costs incurred.

Academic coursework has been developed to teach all participating students, through general education-level courses and major-specific courses, about stem cells including research, ethics, and opportunities. Once the students have been matched with an internship at a participating lab, they will attend the Stem Cell Techniques course developed at The Scripps Research Institute. Once the course is completed, students will be placed in the 12-month internship experience while continuing their full-time enrollment in school.

"We are fulfilling the industry's demand for more trained stem cell researchers so, as a state, California can continue to be competitive in the field," stated Dr. Bianca Mothé program coordinator and associate professor in the department of biology at CSUSM. "This is also a great opportunity for Cal State San Marcos to strengthen partnerships with academic and biotech labs within the region. We look forward to initiating the program as soon as funds are available."

CIRM has not yet distributed funds in light of the current financial situation in California and the inability to sell bonds on the public market. The grant for CSUSM is pending financial availability.

The focus of the program at CSUSM will be to engage a diverse pool of students in internships with academic and biotech labs, providing them with the educational and technical skills that will allow them to pursue future careers in stem-cell research.