The biotech sector in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley got a jolt of energy earlier this month.
Pasadena City College’s Keck Biotechnology Program has received a renewal grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state’s stem cell agency, worth more than $3 million over the next five years. The “Bridges to Stem Cell Research and Therapy” grant will allow PCC to continue its mission of educating the next generation of stem cell lab technicians and researchers.
“This renewal of CIRM’s support reaffirms their commitment to the work we have been proud to do since 2009,” said Pamela Eversole-Cire, Ph.D., who directs the Bridges Training Program at PCC. “Our students, faculty, and support staff are all grateful for CIRM’s ongoing contribution to the future of biotechnology.”
PCC has been at the forefront of training students to participate in stem cell research since November 2004, when California voters passed a landmark law dedicating state resources to the area of therapeutic research. The next year, instructors at Pasadena City College transferred mouse stem cell technology from the neighboring institution of Caltech, and then in Fall 2005 PCC was the first California community college to offer a stem cell culture course in its curriculum.
State funding for PCC’s efforts followed, with resources going toward building a program to train students to work in entry-level positions in the fields of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. Since 2009 PCC has received nearly $10 million in grants from the state institute – more than any other community college.
Educating future scientists is just something you find in the air in Pasadena,” said Erika Endrijonas, Ph.D., PCC’s superintendent/president. “This city is home to a plethora of world-class institutions and startup firms advancing the world of science. We are so thrilled to be playing in the same sandbox as all of our peers in this area.
The CIRM program at PCC provides 10 paid research internships each year placing students in stem cell labs at Caltech, USC, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Seventy-eight students have participated in the program, coming from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, including first-generation college students.
After completing the program, students go on to hold laboratory research positions in academia and the biotech industry, enter graduate or professional programs, transfer to four-year institutions, or pursue other opportunities. In addition, thirty percent of past participants in the PCC program have reported publications or patent applications during their CIRM internship year.