Sacramento State and UC Davis awarded stem cell grant for training students

student researcher
The grant will fund a program of internships and related opportunities for cellular and molecular biology students from Sacramento State.

Sacramento State graduate students will soon be working in UC Davis stem cell laboratories thanks to a grant approved on March 12, 2009, by the governing board of the state’s stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

The two universities will benefit from a three-year, $1.3 million “Bridges to Stem Cell Research” grant, which is part of a fund CIRM established to strengthen the ranks of laboratory personnel who have experience using the most current stem cell research techniques. The grant will fund a program of internships and related opportunities for cellular and molecular biology students from Sacramento State.

“The goal of this new training program is to produce skilled scientific and laboratory personnel who will fill the demand for laboratory managers, scientists and other research support professionals in a growing number of laboratories involved in stem cell research,” said Laurel G. Heffernan, associate dean and professor of biological sciences at Sacramento State. “This grant provides our students with a tremendous opportunity for careers in one of the leading areas of scientific research.”

The 30-hour program will consist of two semesters of coursework at Sacramento State and UC Davis, followed by two semesters of a full-time internship at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by CIRM. There will also be a 40-hour Stem Cell Techniques training course at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif.

UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures

stem cell labThe UC Davis stem cell program brings together resources from throughout the university to ensure that bench research — the work done in laboratories — can be translated successfully into clinical treatments.

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“Our partnership will train the next generation of stem cell scientists,” said Jan Nolta, stem cell program director for the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures and a Sacramento State graduate. “They will learn specialized techniques such as good manufacturing practices, adult and embryonic stem cell culture, and scale-up production for cellular therapies, which will play an important role in advancing stem cell science and bringing new treatments to patients who need them."

Students will be full participants in the labs, generating data, presenting results at meetings and potentially contributing to scientific publications. Each intern will work in the labs focused on stem cell cures for currently untreatable neurodegenerative diseases, vascular disorders, liver failure, blindness and other conditions. The disease-team focus aims to help create practical connections between laboratory research and real-world health challenges.

CIRM is the voter-approved agency established by Proposition 71 in 2004 to provide $3 billion in funding for stem cell research in California. Apart from yesterday’s awards, the CIRM committee has awarded 253 research grants totaling more than $635 million, making it the largest source of funding for embryonic and pluripotent stem cell research in the world.