Undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and master’s students enrolled in the Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) biotechnology program will be trained in the theory and techniques of stem cell research thanks to a new grant, the university announced Wednesday.
The training prepares students to enter the California workforce with long-term career opportunities as stem cell researchers, supported by a $3.045 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), stated the announcement.
“The new CIRM grant will support patient engagement activities to help students focus on the fact there is an urgency to stem cell research and we need to accelerate the development of drugs and treatments,” stated Lisa Klig, a professor of molecular genetics at CSULB, who oversees the program alongside developmental biology professor Elizabeth Eldon. “Research can take on a timeline of its own, but when you interact with somebody who has a disease it makes you want to cure it in their lifetime.”
The potential applications for stem cell therapy are countless. The aforementioned drugs and treatments could aid those with debilitating illnesses, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as blindness (macular degeneration). Those affected by stroke, brain and spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, cancer, baldness, arthritis, deafness, even missing teeth, could also benefit from stem cell therapy.
Between 30 and 40 students enroll in the two-year stem cell track of the post-baccalaureate Biotechnology Certificate Program at CSULB, according to the announcement. The first year consists of coursework and laboratory research supported by mentoring, while students study the exploration of drug development processes and the advancement of therapies to ultimately accelerate that advancement. Undergraduates are allowed to participate in the program while concurrently working toward their bachelor’s degree, which they must complete in order to receive the certificate.
During their second year, 10 students will be selected for an internship to perform full-time, paid research in one of over 30 stem cell laboratories at Cedars-Sinai, City of Hope and UC Irvine. Their research will then contribute to scientific publications and clinical trials. Interns will interact directly with patients and participate in activities at Children’s Hospital Orange County and with representatives from the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, directly interacting with patients. Additionally, interns will take part in three types of community outreach and education activities.