The California Institute of Technology has been awarded $2.3 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to support 10 postdoctoral scholars in the Caltech Stem Cell Biology Training Program.
The grant is one of 16 that were awarded by CIRM to non-profit institutions in California. The grants total $12.1 million and are intended to train the next generation of stem cell researchers. They are the first grants awarded by the California stem cell agency.
"This is an exhilarating day for the scientists, patients and the millions of Californians who support stem cell research," said Robert Klein, chairman of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, the agency's governing board.
"CIRM was created to fund science in the service of therapies, and today we're making our first grants. These grants are an investment in human capital. They will train the next generation of scientists. Patients can celebrate today because the flow of funds has started to the physicians and scientists who have dedicated their lives to this pioneering field that holds such promise for reducing human suffering."
The Caltech program will educate postdoctoral scholars in stem cell biology, its various potential medical applications, as well as the social, ethical and legal issues in this field.
"Caltech is already undertaking many stem cell research projects, and I think this will stimulate considerable additional interest," said Paul Patterson, training program director and Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences. "This is the first step in expanding our efforts in this area."
In addition to Caltech's current stem cell course offerings, the Institute will offer a new bioethics course that emphasizes issues raised by stem cell research and applications.
Caltech will also collaborate with the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles to offer a new tri-campus lecture course in stem cell biology.
Relevant areas of current research at Caltech include embryonic and adult stem cell plasticity, stem cells and cancer, embryonic development, imaging technology, tissue engineering and macromolecular fabrication, computational biology, nanoscale biology and chemistry, and the basic science of hematopoietic, muscle, endothelial and neural stem cells.
The cells and organisms being studied in this context include yeast, C. Elegans, Drosophila, Xenopus, zebrafish, mice and humans, including a variety of animal models of human diseases.
The new, collaborative part of this training program utilizes the expertise at Keck/USC and Children's Hospital in the areas of human embryonic stem cell growth and differentiation, cutting-edge gene transfer technology application in the clinic, stem cell research in a variety of organs, as well as medical ethics.
Together, these institutions can provide a broad, in-depth curriculum for trainees. This collaboration also offers the opportunity and stimulus for basic scientists to become familiar with related clinical issues and the potential application of their findings to disease.
To enhance interaction among the CIRM trainees and to keep them up to date in this field, the Caltech program will include new stem cell seminar and journal club programs, as well as an annual scientific symposium.