Graduate Program in Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine

One of the principal goals of the institute is the education and training of the next generation of stem cell researchers and the physicians who will practice regenerative medicine. The Stanford School of Medicine offers an interdisciplinary doctoral program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. The program integrates studies in basic and clinical sciences to create a doctoral program designed to foster a translational approach to biomedical research.



Unique Research Opportunities for Medical Students

Stem cell biology is not only about discovery, but is a unique field of medical study with the potential to fundamentally change our understanding and treatment of human diseases. Stem cell activation for tissue repair or the direct isolation and transplantation of tissue stem cells is the basis of regenerative medicine. Tissue-derived, embryonic, or induced pluripotent stem cells provide many paths to basic discovery, but these cells also offers a source of tissue stem cells that might participate in tissue or organ regeneration following transplant. The identification, isolation, and deep molecular research of each cancer stem cell again provides a path to discovery and, from those discoveries, novel molecular and immune therapies for those cancers.

            Stem cell biology is becoming central to modern medicine. Knowing this, several leaders on the faculty, including Paul Berg, PJ Utz, Brian Kobilka, and Irv Weissman, have developed a new medical school basic science curriculum that extends the first two years of medical school into 3 years. There is also an option for an additional year to complete a master’s degree. In this curriculum, students will have daily dedicated research time starting late in the first year, with full time research each summer.  This novel alternative provides sufficient time for the MD student to do meaningful research with our faculty in stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and cancer stem cell biology. The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine welcomes incoming medical students. We encourage all MD students to explore our research opportunities and, if relevant, to participate in our Faculty’s related clinical subspecialties such as hematopoietic cell transplant, tissue stem cell transplants, and cancer stem cell-related clinical trials, etc. To learn more about these opportunities in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine please contact Lorena Najarro.


About the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine PhD Program

In 2011, the Stanford University Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine was the first new School of Medicine doctoral program to be approved by the Faculty Senate in more than 20 years. When chartered, the SCBRM Program also became the first graduate program in the world to offer specialized training at the intersection of basic and clinical science with specific emphasis on Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.  Typically, this intersection is referred to as pre-clinical or translational science and this unique discipline has become an area of intense interest at medical schools and universities in the US and abroad.

The initial program concept grew out of an increasing recognition that academic and industry positions for scientists, as advertised in the major scientific journals seek to recruit translational scientists with broad cross-disciplinary training. Such openings increasingly target those with demonstrated training and experience in human stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and translation.  Traditionally, doctoral programs in biomedical sciences across the US, including Stanford, have focused on the basic sciences with little interaction with translation and clinical application.  The Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Program at Stanford became the first graduate program at Stanford to bridge this gap with specific intent to provide young scientists with expertise in both basic discovery and in the application of discoveries to improve human health and wellbeing.


What's different about the Stanford Stem Cell PhD program?  

Our program offers advanced training at the intersection of basic science and clinical application with a specific emphasis on Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. This program is one of the first in the nation and abroad to specifically offer doctoral degrees in the translational sciences.

testing in the lab

Traditionally, doctoral programs in biomedical sciences have focused on the basic sciences with emphasis on model systems such as bacteria, yeast, flies, worms, frogs and mice. This educational formula is based on the concept that clinically-relevant discoveries will naturally emerge from the basic sciences, that the human organism is of such complexity that model systems are preferable, and that there will be a growing need for scientists with narrow expertise in the basic sciences. Little emphasis has been placed on clinical translation of the basic science discoveries. However with the introduction of new tools and technologies of the last decade, it is clear that human biology is amenable to rigorous inquiry and that we can expand career opportunities for our graduates by providing them with the skills and knowledge to encompass the continuum of basic, translational and clinical sciences. Human stem cells enable these new lines of enquiry and translation. Tissue-derived and pluripotent stem cells allow investigators to create authentic human biological systems in vitro and in animals. Emerging tools in genetic engineering and in single cell biology allow us to begin targeting disease at the source and to create interventions that are precisely tailored to the mechanisms underlying disease.

Our doctoral program provides exceptional didactic education and research experience in the basic sciences underlying stem cell biology. In addition, program participants will receive specialized training in the development and clinical application of discoveries in the basic sciences to achieve regenerative therapies. Thus, our graduates will be uniquely positioned to develop successful translational careers in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and will emerge prepared to deliver on their passion to improve the human condition.

The Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine

The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine is home to the Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine.  The effort is led by the Institute’s Co-Director, Dr. Maria-Grazia Roncorolo.  Clinician investigators and researchers at Stanford have created one of the first dedicated translational medicine centers located on an academic campus. “The Center” and the Stem Cell PhD program strongly encourage graduate students to consider a research path and dissertation that engages the resources of The Center. The explicit intent of The Center is to enable discoveries to transition to the clinic within a well-integrated and fully self-contained pipeline that spans from the research bench to the first application of cell and gene therapy in humans.   Many of the Stem Cell PhD Program faculty participate in clinically-targeted research projects and students in the Stem Cell Program have an unprecedented opportunity to gain experience in the unique science and regulatory environment of first-in-human clinical trials.

Extraordinary Freedom to Design your own Doctoral Research Program and Dissertation.  Our commitment is to fully fund any student admitted to the Stem Cell PhD Program for the first 4 years of graduate school.  A student no longer needs to ask a prospective faculty member “Do you have funding to support a graduate student?”   The faculty members of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine represent the cutting edge of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and we encourage students to take full advantage of program faculty. However, we also recognize that there are many faculty members on the larger Stanford campus whose groundbreaking advances provide the biological breakthroughs, technologies, and tools for the next generation of treatments and cures.   Many Stem Cell PhD students design dissertations that are immersed in the disciplines of physics, photonics, chemistry, materials sciences and engineering, bioengineering, and computational biology.  Students in the Stem Cell PhD Program can rotate with any faculty member at Stanford University and, if the faculty member agrees, the student can select a dissertation co-mentor or primary advisor from any department or graduate program.