UCSC receives funding for training grants from stem cell institute

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has received $375,000 from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund the first year of a new training program in stem cell research. CIRM announced today that it has distributed $12.1 million in grants to 16 California institutions as part of the CIRM Training Program.

At UCSC, the program will support the training of three predoctoral fellows (graduate students) and three postdoctoral fellows. Faculty in the Departments of Biomolecular Engineering and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology are involved in the program.

"It's exciting to see this program under way," said David Haussler, professor of biomolecular engineering and director of the UCSC training program. "It is a very forward-looking initiative for us, one that will definitely help prepare students for future biomedical careers."

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 in early April. The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC), the agency's governing board, had approved training grant applications on September 9, 2005, but funding for the grants could not be awarded due to litigation impeding the state's ability to sell approved General Obligation bonds.

"This is an exhilarating day for the scientists, patients, and the millions of Californians who support stem cell research," said ICOC chairman Robert Klein. "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."

The CIRM Training Program will educate fellows from a variety of scientific backgrounds, including computation and molecular biology, nanotechnology, and clinical medicine. All programs are required to offer at least one course in stem cell biology and disease as well as a course in the social, legal, and ethical implications of stem cell research.

Preparations for the program have been under way for several months at UCSC, where various campus units have come together to provide additional funding. The campus is establishing new dedicated laboratory space for stem cell research and training and has hired a lab manager, and faculty are planning the new courses.

The UCSC stem cell training program is cosponsoring a lecture and discussion on the ethics of stem cell research this month. Laurie Zoloth, professor of medical ethics and humanities and of religion at Northwestern University, will speak at the event on Monday, April 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Stevenson Event Center on the UCSC campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

CIRM was established in 2004 with the passage of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act (Proposition 71). The institute is responsible for disbursing $3 billion in State funds for stem cell research to California universities and research institutions over the next ten years and is overseen and governed by the ICOC. More information is available from the CIRM web site at http://www.cirm.ca.gov.