Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CSUS Responds on $31 Million Training Plan

Susan Baxter, executive director of the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, sent the following comment on our item Aug. 13 on the $31 million training proposal her system presented to the Oversight Committee of the California stem cell agency.

You wrote, “One could wonder why this proposal was not presented to the staff earlier.”

The CCC/CSU partnership presented its proposal to CIRM staff in August of 2006. Since then, conversations between CIRM staff and CSU and CCC faculty have taken place. Many of the concepts and ideas presented in the proposal were considered during the scientific strategic planning process at CIRM. The CIRM Scientific Strategic Plan, approved by the ICOC in December 2006, includes a five year goal to “increase the workforce of stem cell researchers in California” and calls for CIRM to increase the number of scientists (basic, translational and clinical), as well as trained technical staff. CIRM will also strive to increase the diversity of the workforce at all levels. The CSU/CCC proposal clearly connects to the CIRM Scientific Strategic Plan and conversations about the proposal with CIRM staff are continuing.

Second, you wrote, “The proposal keyed off the widespread belief that biotech firms in California have difficulty finding skilled workers.”

To clarify, we recognize that life science graduates are not often exposed to medical product development. Typically, a life science student’s first exposure to real-world research is in academic laboratory coursework or in faculty research laboratories. In contrast, the life sciences industry works within a highly regulated environment in order to develop safe, effective human therapies. Increased exposure and understanding of this business environment will better prepare California’s students for careers in the life science industry, including the emerging stem cell industry sector which faces unique challenges as it develops clinical best practices for new cell-based product testing, formulation, and delivery. Also, exposing life sciences students to issues and challenges around clinical research and product development may encourage more interest in this aspect of therapeutic, device and diagnostic development. Not only does the field need physicians interested in clinical research, but also project managers, statisticians, engineers, computer scientists, preclinical researchers and regulatory experts able to work in interdisciplinary teams. The CSU/CCC is uniquely positioned to deliver this high-level workforce to assist in ground-breaking research efforts and bring them to commercialization.

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