Stem cell agency funds research training program at UC Santa Cruz

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IBSC Program Director Catharina Casper-Lindley and IBSC Directors Lindsay Hinck and Camilla Forsberg lead the institute’s stem cell training and career development programs. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
stephens@ucsc.edu (Tim Stephens)

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded a $4.9 million grant to UC Santa Cruz for a CIRM Training Program in Systems Biology of Stem Cells. Directed by the UCSC Institute for the Biology of Stem Cells (IBSC), the program will support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

“Alumni of our training programs have excellent track records in achieving their desired career goals,” said IBSC Program Director Catharina Lindley. “We are particularly excited about welcoming mentors and trainees from the Science and Justice Research Center to the new program. Incorporation of social and ethical aspects of stem cell research will give trainees valuable perspectives.”

The training program places strong emphasis on individualized mentoring, cohort building, and creation of strong scientific and career networks. Mentors and trainees will be drawn from a variety of disciplines, including bioengineering, genomics, biology, and social sciences.

Since its start in 2005, the IBSC has built a cohesive interdisciplinary stem cell research community at UCSC. With a core stem cell research facility and classes in stem cell research and ethics, the institute brings together 31 laboratories led by faculty from seven different departments and three divisions.

The program will provide rigorous training in stem cell research under the guidance of an IBSC faculty mentor. Trainee research will focus on solving important problems in stem cell research using interdisciplinary and innovative approaches. Integrative core courses will bring together trainees from different scientific backgrounds to promote cross-fertilization and cohort building. Other components of the program include outreach and patient engagement opportunities and training in career development skills.

“A major goal of our program is to emphasize comprehension of the ‘big picture,’ so that trainees can confidently identify key outstanding issues in the stem cell field and innovative routes to investigating them,” said Camilla Forsberg, professor of biomolecular engineering and co-director of the IBSC.

“UCSC’s strength lies in pushing boundaries in basic sciences,” added co-director Lindsay Hinck, professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology. “Interactions with translational and clinical medicine teams will enrich our trainees’ perspectives and encourage fruitful collaborations in developing novel stem cell therapeutics.”

The IBSC’s stem cell training and career development infrastructure has been strengthened by several recent grants, including an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health, a graduate student training program funded by the UC-Hispanic Serving Institutions Doctoral Diversity Initiative, and a mentoring program funded by the Genentech Foundation.

The new program is expected to grow over the first few years, eventually serving eight Ph.D. students and six postdoctoral fellows per year by the third year of the program.