Translational Biology in BMS
The BMS program is deeply committed to training students to perform research that will have an impact on human health. For some students, this is achieved through a focus on basic molecular mechanisms of cell, tissue or organ function, or via the development of transgenic mouse models of human disease. For others this involves helping design clinical trials and working with blood or tissue samples from patients undergoing evaluation or treatment in clinical trials; some of our students, for example, are searching for novel human viruses in such materials, while others are evaluating them for molecular markers of diagnostic or prognostic significance. For other students, this involves participation in structure-based drug design or mechanism-based drug screening.
Translational Research Track
Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) Training Program
The UCSF Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) Training Program is made possible through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and responds to the desire of many entering UCSF graduate students to initiate research careers that advances human health. Our goal is to support activities that enhance student knowledge of medical science and opportunities in disease-relevant research areas that will promote interest in this research among UCSF graduate students and will provide the tools that they need to pursue interactive investigations with clinical investigators that advance human health, either at UCSF or during their future careers. BMS students are welcome and encouraged to participate in the GEMS program.
Students in the translational research track take one or more of the following elective courses and may fashion a customized program of electives that enhance their exposure to research at the interface of science and medicine. These electives may be taken at any time in graduate school.
Each spring, the BMS Program, in conjunction with the UCSF Institute for Molecular Medicine, offers focused mini-courses that deal with the translation of basic science advances to clinical medicine. These small seminar courses provide an opportunity for close contact with laboratory scientists and clinical investigators interested is a particular disease (or set of diseases). They combine contact with affected patients, exposure to clinical and epidemiological perspectives, and basic molecular and cellular biology, all in the context of how these forms of inquiry advance the development of new therapeutics. Each year, the palate of disease-oriented mini-courses will change to reflect the areas of translational research in which research is most active or progress most remarkable.
In addition to spring-quarter mini-courses, BMS faculty also offer a number of full-length disease-oriented electives. Recent examples include an elective Autoimmune Diseases led by Professor Abul Abbas, MD (a pathologist and immunologist), not a traditional immunology and microbiology course but rather a cross-disciplinary exploration of human immune diseases that seek to describe how fundamental cellular and molecular processes engender the clinical symptoms of these disorders. Students with an interest in genetics may elect coursework in Population Genetics and in Genetic Epidemiology; the latter has a heavy emphasis on clinical investigations of human subjects at the population level. Courses on translational subjects open to BMS students are offered by our sister program in Neuroscience, and include examinations of neurodegenerative disorders and developmental disorders of the nervous system. Other courses include the fall quarter course Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer taught by Professor Martin McMahon, PhD, and the winter quarter course Developmental & Stem Cell Biology taught by Professors Diana Laird, PhD and Emmanuelle Passegue, PhD.
Clinical and Translational Science Institute
BMS students also have access to the teaching and research activities of the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which overseas training in clinical investigation and epidemiology at UCSF (see the CTSI website). Although the actual leadership of clinical trials generally requires an MD degree, PhDs can and do participate in the design and conduct of such trials, and BMS students in the translational research track with an interest is learning about clinical (i.e. patient-based) investigation can do so via enrollment in the elective Epidemiology 150.03 Designing Clinical Research for Residents and Students.