This application proposes the first renewal of Boston University's NIH training program, Translational Research in Biomaterials (TRB). The mission of the TRB is to develop PhD students into interdisciplinary and translational research scientists / engineers. Through their TRB training, they have and will continue to acquire: 1) a fundamental and quantitative understanding of materials, polymer chemistry, surface science, biomaterial-tissue response, and molecular and cellular biology; 2) exposure to engineering technologies and characterization techniques; 3) research experience in interdisciplinary programs that promote discussion and scientific inquiry in areas outside of the student's comfort zone; and 4) training in societal impacts of new technology, ethics, clinical trials, and basic business. Between 2009 and 2014, the BU TRB has had 13 interdisciplinary trainees (six women, seven men, 15% minority, and 100% retention). Four TRB fellows graduated in May 2014 and will start the next phase of their careers, two as postdoctoral fellows and two as scientists in biomedical start-up companies. Their average PhD completion time was five years. The cornerstones of the TRB program are the curriculum and the program elements that combine interdisciplinary research, quantitative science and engineering courses, translational-based courses in clinical trials and business, student-organized seminar club, dinners with a medical doctor, training in professional ethics, individual development career plans, and professional / career development workshops. These skills are essential in future biomedical careers as graduates join teams with diverse backgrounds that strive to meet a common goal in research, development, and, ultimately, commercialization. The TRB trainees have excelled on several fronts, including publishing papers (18 published / five submitted), submitting patent applications (four filed and one in process), giving oral (23) and poster presentations (72) at local, national, and international meetings, completing coursework, participating in societal / community activities (e.g., President of the BU Student Association of Graduate Engineers and tutoring middle school students), and embracing the curriculum, which goes beyond quantitative engineering to include business and clinical courses as well as professional development. All trainees have been supported after the TRB funding ended through independently written fellowships (one NIH NRSA F31, three NSF GRFP awards, one US Pharmacopeial Global Fellowship Award, and one CIMIT Engineering Fellowship) or the NIH R21 / R01 grants of their mentors. In this renewal, the continuation and growth of the TRB from two to four trainees funded via NIH are aligned with the expertise of participating faculty, the availability of a large and strong applicat pool eligible for and interested in the TRB program, and an extramural funding base to provide the appropriate research environment and continuing support for NIH trainees beyond their first two years.
Training young scientists and engineers in translational research in biomaterials facilitates the implementation of biomaterial-based technologies to the clinic. Specifically, the TRB curriculum enables students to develop the creative, analytical, and professional skills they need to make new and differentiated products in areas from diagnostics and drug delivery to tissue repair. These advances will improve patient care in multiple areas of medicine.
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