State gives $51 million to college students for stem cell research

Berkeley City College, which received a portion of $51 million in state stem cell research grants. (Photo:

The California stem cell agency has awarded $51 million to help train students in the art of research at the Golden State’s community colleges and universities.

All 15 applicants for awards that ran as high as $3.6 million each were approved, including Berkeley City College, which was initially rejected by anonymous reviewers who met privately prior to the ratification of their decisions by the agency’s directors.

The closed-door sessions are standard practice for the agency, which says they are needed to provide candor in conducting the reviews.

The program, which is called Bridges, is highly regarded by CIRM directors. It began in 2009 and has involved 1,500 students. A partial survey of those students showed that many moved on to research and development positions.

Directors of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), as the agency is formally known, have added a new requirement, however, for a more thorough follow-up on students’ outcomes in the multi-year program.

Other new requirements in the program place a greater emphasis on diversity efforts.

The Berkeley City College application was approved after its director wrote to the board seeking to overturn the reviewers’ objections. Three former students also filed letters. The motion to fund the effort was made by CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas with the stipulation that the school implement a strong mentoring program within the first year of the award.

All of the recipients have received awards in the past. Private, non-profit institutions were eligible but none applied.

Editor’s Note: David Jensen, a retired newsman, has followed the affairs of the $3 billion California stem cell agency since 2005 via his blog, the California Stem Cell Report, where this story first appeared.  

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