By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director
Among the many new students on campus this fall around are over a dozen post-graduates seeking to become licensed “clinical genetic molecular biologist scientists.” And yes, their work is as complex as the abbreviation (CGMBS) suggests.
To simplify things, these students have begun a 52-week pilot program combining academic and hands-on training so that they can help perform research that may result in pharmaceutical breakthroughs improving our well being.
Leveraging a U.S. Department of Labor American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Grant, and a State of California administered stimulus grant, SJSU developed the program in partnership with the San Mateo County Health System and four Bay Area diagnostics companies: XDx, Veracyte, Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics, Navigenics and Hunter Laboratories.
Monday through Thursday, students work in labs at these companies. On Friday, they head to campus for a lecture course taught by biology Assistant Professor Brandon White. The program is coordinated by SJSU Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) Training Program Director Suzanne Gayrard.
The CLS and CGMBS efforts are inter-related. Until this program was established, hospitals would train CLS professionals, who would then be hired away by diagnostics companies in need of CGMBS professionals.
“In general, hospitals cannot train people in molecular techniques because they don’t have enough of that kind of testing in their test menus. That’s why biotech companies have been hiring clinical laboratory scientists from hospitals to work for them,” Gayrard explained.
So creating a CGMBS program not only fills a niche needed by a growing field, but also frees CLS professionals for other work elsewhere in the health care industry. With plans to replicate this statewide, the program is a good example of how SJSU and the CSU are providing the state with the workforce needed to power our economy.