$2.2 million grant approved for program to train stem cell scientists

The governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) last week approved a $2.2 million grant to the University of California, Santa Cruz, to fund a training program in stem cell research. With this grant, the CIRM funding awarded to UCSC now totals $19.4 million from nine grants, all managed by the campus's Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering (CBSE).

The governing board chose not to approve immediate funding for the new grants due to the current financial situation in California and the state's inability to sell bonds on the public market. Instead, they voted on the grants they would like to see funded when the financial situation is resolved.

The tentatively approved grants in CIRM's Research Training Program II will provide a total of $40.6 million to fund graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and clinical fellows working in stem cell research labs throughout the state. At UCSC, the funding will support four graduate students and six postdoctoral researchers for three years.

"These trainees are our future stem cell scientists," said Alan Trounson, president of CIRM. "With these awards we are establishing a strong next generation of researchers and physician scientists to continue developing new stem cell-based therapies."

An earlier grant supporting six trainees at UCSC is due to expire this year. Ann Pace, associate director of CBSE, said the new funding will support a significant expansion of the training program.

"Training students is a big part of our mission, and our trainees will gain the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the advancement of stem cell medicine," Pace said.

The UCSC program in Systems Biology of Stem Cells will feature formal and supplemental education in a collaborative, interdisciplinary biomedical research environment. It brings together the unique strengths of faculty with expertise in key areas for advancing basic stem cell research. Faculty mentors from the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences and the Jack Baskin School of Engineering will be involved in the program.

CBSE director David Haussler, a professor of biomolecular engineering in the Jack Baskin School of Engineering, will serve as program director. Associate directors are Manuel Ares, William Sullivan, and John Tamkun, all professors of molecular, cell, and developmental biology, and Camilla Forsberg, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering.

CIRM was established in early 2005 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities. To date, the CIRM governing board has approved 253 research and facility grants totaling more than $635 million, making CIRM the largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research in the world.

The Center for Biomolecular Science & Engineering (CBSE) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, fosters new approaches to discovery in human health. With interdisciplinary research and academic programs spanning the Baskin School of Engineering and the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, the center supports a vast array of biological and engineering research that is fueling advances in biotechnology and medicine. The center is also home to the UCSC Genome Browser, a crucial resource for the international scientific community.

The Jack Baskin School of Engineering at UCSC prepares technologists--and sponsors technology--for our changing world. Founded in 1997, Baskin Engineering trains students in six future-focused areas of engineering: biotechnology/information technology/nanotechnology; bioengineering; information and communication infrastructure; mathematical and statistical modeling; software and services engineering; and system design. Baskin Engineering faculty conduct industry-leading research that is improving the way the world does business, treats the environment, and nurtures humanity.