CIRM Training Program

The overall goal of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) training program is to develop creative and productive scholars who bring to their work a thorough understanding of the biological, engineering, ethical and legal complexities surrounding stem cell research, and a shared commitment to the application of stem cell biology and engineering to the improvement of human health.
Our program provides training for clinical, postdoctoral and pre-doctoral fellows in molecular biology, bioengineering or related scientific disciplines. Clinical fellows are appointed through CHORI, with a focus on post-residency training to expand the clinical applications for cord blood stem cell therapies. Postdoctoral fellows’ primary appointments may be at UC Berkeley, CHORI, or Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Pre-doctoral fellows may be affiliated with in any relevant science or engineering department at UC Berkeley. The CIRM program is composed of clinical fellows, postdoctoral CIRM scholars, and predoctoral CIRM Scholars.

Program Leadership

Dr. Ellen Robey 
Program Director
Molecular and Cell Biology
UC Berkeley
  Dr. Mark C. Walters
Program Associate Director
Director, Blood & Marrow Transplantation Program

CIRM Clinical Fellows

Alexander Davies, D.V.M, Ph.D.

Exosomes have emerged as important messengers between cells and their microenvironment. Their uptake by target cells can induce potent phenotypic change under physiological and pathological states, yet the role of exosomes in cell fate determination remains poorly understood. My work aims to benefit stem cell biology and regenerative medicine by improving our understanding of how exosomes influence cell fate, tissue organization, and behavior within the microenvironment.

Nahal Lalefar, M.D.
Inducing hematopoietic stem cells to proliferate without differentiating is still a major obstacle to overcome in stem-cell related therapies and transplantation. One protein that has been explored in this regard is the Wnt protein which promotes maintenance of stem cells in a self-renewing state. However, it has a fatty acid moiety that makes in insoluble in an aqueous environment. My research focuses on creating a biomimetic system called the Wnt-nanodisk, where Wnt is embedded in a nanoparticle consisting of phospholipid and a scaffold protein, to create a stable and soluble Wnt particle and optimizing its effects on stem cell proliferation without causing differentiation.

Postdoctoral CIRM Scholars

Maroof Adil, Ph.D.
Clinical trials of cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s disease are often unpredictable. Ineffective dispersion of implanted cells can lead to incomplete replenishment of denervated areas and regions of heterogeneous dopaminergic activity. I am interested in developing 3D biomaterial scaffolds functionalized with specific neurotrophic and chemotactic molecules that can enhance the survival and post-implantation dispersion of encapsulated stem cell derived dopaminergic neurons. Success in this project will take us a step closer to recreating the natural neural architecture following cell replacement therapy in neurodegenerative conditions and improve treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Mark DeWitt, Ph.D.

I am working to develop novel methods for editing human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), the progenitors of all blood cells. HSCs are a prime target for treatment of genetic blood disease by gene editing because changes to these cells will be permanently reflected in all mature blood cells that descend from them. Specifically, I am developing methods for correcting the mutation that causes sickle cell disease, which affects nearly 100,000 individuals in the USA, and millions more worldwide. These methods may eventually form the basis of a cure for sickle cell disease by autologous bone marrow transplant.

Annamaria Mocciaro, Ph.D.
I am studying how proteins are modified with ubiquitin and how processes in the cell are regulated by ubiquitylation.  I am currently working on a deubiquitinating enzyme, Usp44, with fundamental roles in the regulation of stem cell transcription.

Robert Schinzel, Ph.D.
Complex organisms evolved several stress response pathways in order to navigate an unpredictable and complex environment. Intriguingly, the activation of some of these pathways is not just restricted to cells directly affected by the stress, but can be communicated to distal tissues of the organism.  I am working to identify the mechanisms by which cells communicate and respond to cellular stress by exposing human pluripotent stem cell-derived tissues to toxins or other environmental challenges and asking if the cells are able to communicate their state. Using stem cells allows me to derive a wide range of cell types to understand the tissue-specificity of the communication, as well as the basic mechanism of the signaling, both in healthy cells, and in the context of disease.

Rui Song, Ph.D.

We have identified a miRNA family, miR-34/449 miRNAs, whose deficiency in ESCs and iPSCs expands their cell fate potential to generate both embryonic and extra-embryonic cell lineages. Previously, we have showed that miR-34/449 miRNAs are required for ciliogenesis in multiciliated epithelia. Interestingly, primary cilia are assembled in the mouse embryo in a lineage-specific manner: embryonic lineages are ciliated, whereas extraembryonic lineages lack cilia. I will use both in vivo mouse model and in vitro cell culture to test the hypothesis that  miR-34/449 miRNAs regulate the cell fate plasticity of pluripotent stem cells by controlling primary cilia development.

Eddie Wang, Ph.D.
Studies on ocular lens development, homeostasis, and disorders are time-consuming due to a lack of powerful in vitro models. I am developing a 3D culture system to mimic the environment of a developing lens and will use this system to dynamically study lens cell differentiation and maturation into lens-like tissues.

Liangqi Xie, Ph.D.
The organizing principles of the human pluripotency-associated transcription factor network and the molecular underpinnings orchestrating the spatial-temporal gene expression program in the three-dimensional nucleus are far from understood. I am combining the genome engineering and single molecule imaging tools to dissect the architecture, mechanism and functionality of enhancers in the topology of the pluripotent stem cell nucleus.

Predoctoral CIRM Scholars

Diya Das
The olfactory epithelium is remarkable not only for its capacity to produce neurons into adulthood, but also because following loss of most cells due to chemical injury, the remaining horizontal basal stem cells rapidly proliferate to regenerate the lost tissue and restore function.  I am interested in the molecular mechanisms that regulate this injury-induced regeneration.

Sean McFarland
Stem cells have rich potential within the field of regenerative medicine, both in modeling disease phenotype and in developing novel therapeutics. This potential comes at the cost of complexity, however, and such cells integrate many ambient signals to determine behavior. To better explore this diverse parameter space, I am developing a high-throughput platform that will allow for combinatorial interrogation of stem cells in 3D microenvironments.

Elisabet Rosas
The widely accepted theory that injury drives the de-differentiation of mature, contractile smooth muscle cells into proliferative smooth muscle cells was challenged in 2012 with the discovery of multipotent vascular stem cells. However, high throughput and high resolution techniques are needed to underpin the role of multipotent vascular stem cells in vascular disease, as well as explore their potential for harnessing vascular regeneration and targeting vascular therapy. I am developing a high-specificity, multiplexed analytical tool for analysis of rare and morphologically heterogeneous stem cells, and will apply this tool to scrutinize the role of multipotent vascular stem cells in vascular disease progression.

Chiahao Tsui
Using an in vitro reconstituted system, I am working on the mechanistic interaction between c-MYC, OCT4, and SOX2. Specifically, by using an in vitro transcription assay, I am trying to understand how c-MYC is able to enhance OCT4/SOX2 binding and lead to productive gene activation.