In ViaCyte’s ongoing efforts to train and support future generations, we are proud to be a part of the Bridges to Stem Cell Research and Therapy Awards Program, which was established by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).  ViaCyte, along with several other California companies, institutions, and universities volunteer to assist in the training and development of undergraduate and masters students interested in pursuing careers in regenerative medicine.

As soon as I learned about the incredible potential of regenerative medicine, I was drawn to the idea of using stem cells to replace or augment biological systems. The CIRM Bridges program provided a unique opportunity to intern, and eventually work, at ViaCyte, which continues to further my understanding of the complexity and promise that stem cells hold for regenerative medicine.

Leah Elliott, former CIRM Bridges trainee, became an engineer at ViaCyte

CIRM recognizes that continued advancement in stem cell research requires an increasing number of experienced and highly skilled scientists who are passionate about stem cell biology.  CIRM’s Bridges program provides funding to support a two-year hands-on experience with coursework, lab internships, educational enhancement activities, and, importantly, engagement with patients.  Undergraduate or masters students who are enrolled at an accredited California academic organization can apply for the program.

Each year, ViaCyte hosts and trains several promising young scientists for the internship portion of the Bridges program.  To date, ViaCyte has hosted ten students from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and we have been incredibly impressed with the caliber of students who have interned with us.  In fact, one intern who completed the Bridges training at ViaCyte was subsequently hired by the company as a full-time engineer.

The Bridges program has proven highly successful overall, with 95 percent of the 700 students who have completed the program now either working in laboratories, enrolled in school, or applying to graduate school.  And in January of 2016, CIRM re-upped the Bridges program with an additional $42 million investment .

CIRM president and CEO Randal Mills said, “It’s not just a matter of giving them money, but also of giving them good mentors who can help train and guide them, giving them meaningful engagement with patients and patient advocates, so they have a clear vision of the impact the work they are going can have on people’s lives.”

ViaCyte is proud to be a part of such a strong program that is inspiring the next generation of regenerative medicine researchers who will advance stem cell therapies to improve lives.

Watch what these students do next after the Bridges program.

Read about what the students at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo are doing in the Bridges program.