HSCI model recognized by federal awards

HSCI has received two federal grant awards that acknowledge the benefits of the community’s cross-institutional model. The first, awarded under the direction of HSCI Co-Director David Scadden, MD, is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training Grant award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Traditional NIH Training grants are awarded to individual university departments and support graduate and/or postdoctoral students working under that department’s faculty. In the case of the HSCI training grant, the award supports graduate students and postdocs working in the labs of HSCI Principal Faculty members across our affiliate institutions and hospitals. The five-year grant is, in its first year, supporting three graduate students and two postdocs in labs at Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Trainees are selected through a competitive application process.

The HSCI Training Grant Program not only affords trainees the opportunity to conduct stem cell research under the mentorship of HSCI Principal Faculty, but it also enforces a well-rounded early research experience. All trainees are required to develop a research plan with their mentor, receive instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research, give an annual oral presentation to the HSCI Executive Committee, present a poster at the HSCI Retreat, attend stem cell conferences, complete the “Theory and Practice in Stem Cell Biology” course, and participate regularly in career development activities. Graduate student trainees must also complete at least four additional courses in stem cell and regenerative biology, including at least one in a non-science topic, such as ethics, and postdocs must participate actively in the supervision and mentoring of an intern, graduate student, or research technician.

Most trainee appointments last for two years and provide tuition, stipend, and training expense support. In year two, the HSCI Training Grant provides support for up to eight trainees.

HSCI has also received one of only four Ovarian Cancer Consortium Development Awards issued by the Department of Defense (DOD). In 2008, the DOD announced its intent to fund a “major multi-institutional research effort led by leading ovarian cancer researchers that specifically focus on identifying and characterizing early changes of disease associated with ovarian cancer.” Due to the complexity of developing a strong proposal for such a consortium, the DOD has first awarded four one-year “development awards” that provide some administrative funding to recipients as they convene their ovarian cancer community, develop a plan, and work out the details of implementation. The four Development Award recipients are in-vited to apply and compete for a larger Ovarian Cancer Award later this year.

Following the receipt of the development award, under the direction of HSCI Executive Committee member George Daley, MD, PhD, with administrative support from HSCI, more than thirty researchers and physicians from across six HSCI-affiliate institutions held a think tank to begin conversations on how best to structure a consortium that will reach the DOD’s goals and maximize the strengths of our community. Participants will continue to meet and to further refine and solidify the scientific focus as well as the collaborative approach until the final proposal’s due date later this year, after which the DOD will select its one recipient.