CIRM 2.0 Should Include Bridges Training Program

CIRM 2.0The 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.

5 thoughts on “CIRM 2.0 Should Include Bridges Training Program”

  1. Thanks for your support, Paul. In reply to Mr. Hu, we included this nugget of data in a recent program report to CIRM: “Of the [CSU] Bridges programs reporting in September 2014 (70%), we find that 88% of Bridges scholars land a job or enter graduate or medical school programs relevant to their stem cell research experience – within one year of degree completion. In contrast, only ~40% of life sciences graduates nationwide end up working in life science, physical science or
    healthcare fields. The Bridges Program has proven to be impactful using this measure alone.”

  2. Every one of the more than 20 Bridges interns that have worked in my lab are either in graduate school or have jobs as technicians. This is a spectacularly successful program.

    We need to keep in mind, however, that with the loss of all support for the Shared labs and training centers, we have nowhere to teach the students and nowhere for them to do their research projects.

    Ironic, isn’t it- breaking down the infrastructure that was built over the last 6 years, just when we need it most?

  3. Perhaps this can be justified as a continuing effort to train more people for stem cell research, but where is the quantitative justification based on those who have already been trained? The blog post quotes a professor who says, “I have seen first hand just how powerful the Bridges program has been … I have been incredibly impressed with their intellect, energy, and the sheer overall amount they have to contribute to stem cell research in California.” Could she please give some (one) example of the contribution to the field she has witnessed from a CIRM graduate. If you really want to whip up support, be quantitative.

  4. As a graduate of the CIRM Bridges program I consider myself incredibly lucky. The program was the catalyst for my interest in this nascent field and opened my eyes to the amazing potential that stem cells have. The training I received as part of my participation in the program was thorough and informative. As a bay area resident, I see the need for skilled stem cell researchers to occupy the variety of opportunities in industry and academic labs. The Bridges program is designed to provide bachelor’s and master’s level researchers with very specific skills. The Stem Cell industry is growing by leaps and bounds and our investment should be growing, not going away.

  5. I am currently in a cirm bridges program from a community college. I would be very sad if cirm would cut funding to these programs. I have gained so much from the training from skills, internships, jobs, and amazing connections. I could not have gained everything I have from the past two years without the bridges program.

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