Medical school applies for California stem cell funds

New state institute could award grants as early as September

The School of Medicine has taken the first steps toward realizing the promise of Proposition 71, the measure that created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to fund the study of stem cells. The school applied earlier this month for a training grant to support 16 scientists doing research in adult or embryonic stem cells.

The grant would provide roughly $1.2 million per year for three years to support the career development of six graduate students, five postdoctoral fellows and five research fellows. These CIRM scholars will be culled from departments across campus including those in the medical school, engineering, the humanities and other areas.

"This is truly a cross-disciplinary effort," said Margaret Fuller, PhD, the Reed-Hodgson Professor in Human Biology and Professor of Genetics, who helped write and submit the training grant.

The grant submission is part of the first call for applications from CIRM. The institute has accepted applications for training grants from a number of California institutions, and CIRM officials have said that they hope to make awards as early as September--less than one year after the November election in which voters approved Prop. 71.

Yet the timing of the grants is still in flux. Although the state is slated to provide the institute with sufficient funding to cover the first round of grants, lawsuits brought against the institute could postpone--or even halt--the entire funding process.

Assuming that CIRM defeats the lawsuits, it will eventually raise about $3 billion to disperse among California's competing stem cell research initiatives.

The state money is to be allocated over the next 10 years. In the future, CIRM is expected to review grants for new research facilities and eventually for research programs.

If awarded the grant, the trainees at Stanford would participate in all coursework and activities required by their departments as well as take required courses in stem cell biology, disease mechanisms and ethics. They would also attend a weekly seminar series. "The goal," Fuller explained, "is for trainees to become experts in stem cell biology and become interested in and informed about human disease."

The submitted grant is also a first for Stanford's recently formed Program in Regenerative Medicine, which pulls together faculty interested in regenerative medicine research from across the Stanford campus. One goal for the program is to help coordinate Stanford's efforts to receive CIRM grants.

The program is under the direction of the medical school's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.