Thursday, October 11, 2007

Work to Begin on Stem Cell Training Grant Concepts

California stem cell agency officials seem ready to dissect a $31 million proposal to train thousands of persons to work in the stem cell industry and use it as the framework for competitive bidding on efforts to beef up the biotech workforce.

The proposal from the California State University and community college systems came up for a brief discussion at last week's Oversight Committee meeting.

Richard Murphy(see photo), interim CIRM president, told committee members that CIRM funds should be awarded on a competitive basis. However, he said more discussions will be held with officials at CSUS as the CIRM staff works out concepts for RFAs.

The CSUS and community college systems, assuming they remain focused on CIRM, are likely to win their share of the grants.

CSUS officials presented their plan to the Oversight Committee last August. No other options were laid out at the time, although Oversight Committee members raised a series of questions. CSUS responded with a lengthy report prior to last week's meeting.

Training is an important part of the CIRM's strategic plan. especially in the next year or two. The plan designated about $38 million for technical staff training and about $35 million for scientific personnel development.

The technical training component seems to be more aligned with the CSUS proposal. The plan stated:
"The growth of this industry will require an educated and well-trained workforce. CIRM will support training of technical staff with essential skills for stem cell research such as cell culture, microscopy, fluorescence-activated cell sorting and analysis, micromanipulation techniques, surgical techniques, and good laboratory practices (GLP). Training will be supported at the undergraduate and masters levels with certificate or degree programs. Successful biotechnology training programs have already been implemented at several California colleges and universities as a means of supporting the broader research community. CIRM will seek to support similar programs that focus efforts towards maintaining an adequate supply of technical staff for stem cell research.
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