CIRM Provides $11 Million Boost in Funding to Train Stem Cell Scientists

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Two critical programs funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state stem cell agency, got a $11 million increase today when the agency’s 29-member Governing Board voted to approve funding for two additional grants in the Training II program and five additional grants in the Bridges program.

The grants voted in today had been recommended by the Scientific and Medical Research Funding Working Group for funding if funds permit. In January 2009, when the Board considered those applications, they voted to fund only the top tier due to uncertainty in the bond market. With improvements in the state’s bond situation, the Board chose to reconsider the second tier of grants in order to further bolster successful programs training the next generation of stem cell scientists and laboratory staff.

Robert Klein, chair of the Governing Board, said funding these additional programs is an important step in ensuring that California has a well-trained stem cell workforce. “Training is critical to our mission of developing new therapies,” he said. “During a time when the state is having to cut funding to higher education, our agency is bridging part of the gap, ensuring that highly qualified students receive the training they need to fill the high-tech stem cell research jobs of the future.”

The Training II awards provide funding for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows doing research in stem cell biology labs. The Bridges awards fund coursework and internships to prepare undergraduate and masters level students for careers in academic and industry stem cell science laboratories. Together, these programs ensure a pipeline of highly trained stem cell scientists and laboratory personnel to propel California’s growing stem cell industry.

Lisa Klig, Director of the Bridges program at California State University, Long Beach, said the program has been so successful that two additional sites have requested interns, indicating the need for lab personnel with stem cell training. Her diverse students are also typical of the program across California: of four students all are women, two are Hispanic and one is Asian. “The students are loving it and are highly successful in their internships,” she said.
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The Board approved the concept for the next round of Early Translational Awards. The first round, awarded in April 2009, went to 16 grantees who are in the early stages of translating basic stem cell science into new therapies.

“This grant program has an important place in our overall strategy of funding basic stem cell biology and then supporting scientists working to turn those basic discoveries into new cures,” said Alan Trounson, CIRM President. “This next round of Early Translational grants will push more good ideas toward therapies for the people of California and the world.”

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