The California Stem Cell Agency CIRM seems to be in budget cutting mode these days, which from a general perspective makes sense as CIRM seeks to continue operating on its remaining funding through a longer period of time as far out as to 2020.
However, not all cuts are necessarily positive. For example, CIRM reportedly (note: many within the California stem cell community overall are concerned about this possibility) might be considering ending its fantastically successful Bridges training program. That would be very counterproductive. In fact, the Bridges program absolutely should be a key part of CIRM 2.0.
The Bridges program has successfully trained and continues to train students in 11 California state and community colleges. Such training of young scientists who are passionate about stem cell research should always be a part of CIRM.
California Stem Cell Report quoted Susan Baxter, Executive Director of the CSU biotech program, that if the Bridges program is not continued that:
“(CIRM) will lose significant momentum in its efforts to build and inspire a professional stem-cell-related workforce in California.”
Sure, the focus of CIRM 2.0 has shifted to have a more clinical and translational emphasis, but giving up on the mission of training young scientists would be a step backwards.
As a faculty member at UC Davis, I have seen first hand just how powerful the Bridges program has been and continues to be. I have trained and continue to train Bridges students. I have been incredibly impressed with their intellect, energy, and the sheer overall amount they have to contribute to stem cell research in California. The sky is the limit with these young scientists. The CIRM Bridges program empowers them.
Baxter wrapped up a statement to the CIRM Board on his topic this way:
We urge CIRM leadership in the room today to consider extending and continuing the Bridges to Stem Cell Research program. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the impacts of this program with you further. There is no better investment you can make for the State of California.
I couldn’t agree more.
I too ask the CIRM leadership to continue the Bridges program, keeping an eye toward the future of stem cell research.
Even I as a researcher would say that advancing stem cells to new treatments and cures is not all about research. It’s also about people. You need trained, energetic people to make stem cell treatments a reality.