COMPASS Initiative Receives $2.89 Million Grant for Undergraduate Regenerative Medicine Program

Professor Kristen Cardinal, left, and biomedical engineering student Squeaky Buentipo

The Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA COMPASS initiative will receive $2.89 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund an undergraduate program focused on regenerative medicine.  

The initiative is part of the statewide program known as Creating Opportunities through Mentorship and Partnership Across Stem Cell Science, or COMPASS. The CIRM governing board has approved more than $46 million to help fund COMPASS programs throughout California. 

With funds from the grant, Cal Poly’s COMPASS team will implement a two-year undergraduate training program to prepare a diverse group of students for a career in regenerative medicine. The team plans to actively recruit high school and community college students from underrepresented backgrounds as part of the initiative, which aligns with the program’s goal to “guide the growth of a diverse regenerative medicine workforce that represents California and benefits the world.” 

“The agency is trying to enhance the diversity of our field while also creating a robust workforce for the rapidly expanding regenerative medicine industry,” said Kristen Cardinal, Ph.D., a biomedical engineering professor at Cal Poly. 

Professor Kristen Cardinal, left, and biomedical engineering student Squeaky Buentipo operate a new Spinbox machine that produces electro-spun sheets that serve as scaffolding for growing blood vessels.
Professor Kristen Cardinal, left, and biomedical engineering student Squeaky Buentipo operate a new Spinbox machine that produces electro-spun sheets that serve as scaffolding for growing blood vessels.

Dr. Kristen Cardinal leads the effort as program director, along with Trevor Cardinal, Sandi Clement, Elena Keeling, Jane Lehr and Emily Neal. 

With funding from CIRM, the initiative will implement coursework in regenerative medicine, including lab courses in cell therapies, as well as on-campus research experiences, internships and co-ops with industry partners and community outreach. Some of the funding will also go to tuition and support for COMPASS scholars. 

Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo currently offers a master’s level regenerative medicine program, but the COMPASS team’s efforts, along with the grant from CIRM, will help initiate a hands-on undergraduate program. 

Professor Kristen Cardinal, left, and biomedical engineering student Squeaky Buentipo operate a new Spinbox machine that produces electro-spun sheets that serve as scaffolding for growing blood vessels.
Professor Kristen Cardinal, left, and biomedical engineering student Squeaky Buentipo operate a new Spinbox machine that produces electro-spun sheets that serve as scaffolding for growing blood vessels.

“Although Ph.D. programs in this area have been around for a while, and even M.S. programs have been available for the past 10 to 15 years, there is not as much specific training and education at the bachelor’s level,” Dr. Cardinal said.   

“The COMPASS program, at Cal Poly and the other awardee institutions, will hopefully help change that. For students, this means they will have new options at the undergraduate level and job opportunities immediately upon completing their bachelor’s degree.” 

The $2.89 million grant will be awarded to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo over the next five years. 

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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