UCSF Receives Funding for Stem Cell Training

April 10, 2006
News Office: Jennifer O'Brien (415) 502-6397

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced that UCSF and 15 other California non-profit institutions have received the first year of funding for a three-year program to train the next generation of stem cell scientists. These are the first grants awarded by the California stem cell agency.

The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC) approved the training grant applications on Sept. 9, 2005, but they could not be awarded due to litigation impeding the state's ability to sell approved general obligation bonds.

Funding for the grants was drawn from the sale of $14 million of bond anticipation notes (BANs) to six California philanthropic entities. The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Finance Committee approved the BANs this past week. "This is great day for California and the rest of the nation," says Arnold Kriegstein, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UCSF Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology. "Disease knows know boundaries.

"Stem cell biology opens a new door on the treatment of disease. It will require innovative new ways of thinking, new tools and new skills. What better way to ensure success than to recruit the brightest and most gifted, and train them for the future."

The training grants will allow California universities to begin educating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and physicians in a field that will require a substantial investment of research to determine the potential of stem cells and other early-stage cells to illuminate and treat a variety of intractable diseases and conditions, he says.

"The funding provided by CIRM will greatly help us with achieving our goals in understanding the biological basis of cell-based regenerative medicine and using this knowledge for future therapies," says Rik Derynck, Ph.D., co-director of the UCSF Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology. "We at UCSF are very proud to be part of this California-wide effort to stimulate stem cell research."

CIRM awarded three levels of awards — comprehensive, intermediate and specialized — accommodating 169 trainees in programs at small and large institutions throughout California. UCSF applied for and received funding for a "comprehensive" award, designed for training 16 predoctoral, postdoctoral and clinical fellows in stem cell research. UCSF will receive $1.15 million in the first year of funding.

The stem cell training program was designed and will be led by Renee Reijo Pera, Ph.D., co-director of the UCSF Human Embryonic Stem Cell Center and UCSF associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and Kevin Shannon, M.D., UCSF professor of pediatrics, who studies genes that normally regulate the growth of immature blood-forming cells that are mutated in leukemias.

The program will include courses in developmental and stem cell biology, embryology, human disease and transplantation, training in the rigorous ethics required to carry out the basic research and regenerative medicine, and a mentored research program under the guidance of leading basic science and/or clinical stem cell investigators.

The goal of the program, says Reijo Pera, is "to train stem cell scholars in basic research who are cognizant of clinical needs, as well as scholars in clinical disciplines who are grounded in the basic science of stem cell research." Since the request for applications was issued several weeks ago, UCSF has received substantial interest from students, fellows and clinical trainees, says Reijo Pera.

UCSF CIRM scholars will receive salary and benefits. In addition, they will receive research funds ($5,000 per year for predoctoral and $10,000 per year for postdoctoral and clinical fellows).

The CIRM training grants will educate fellows from a variety of scientific backgrounds, including computation and molecular biology, nanotechnology and clinical medicine.

In addition to University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), grants were awarded to Burnham Institute; California Institute of Technology; Children's Hospital Los Angeles; Scripps Research Institute; Stanford University; J. Gladstone Institutes; Salk Institute for Biological Studies; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Santa Cruz; and University of Southern California.

CIRM was established in 2004 with the passage of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The institute is responsible for disbursing $3 billion in state funds for stem cell research to California universities and research institutions over the next 10 years and is overseen and governed by the ICOC. For more information, see www.cirm.ca.gov.

For more information about the UCSF Institute for Stem Cell and Tissue Biology, see stemcellfacts.ucsf.edu/.

UCSF is a leading university that consistently defines health care worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and providing complex patient care.

This news release has been modified for the website