CSU Monterey Bay awarded grant from Genentech Foundation

Peninsula Premier Admin

SEASIDE — Eight weeks of writing letters, being interviewed and submitting an application paid big dividends as CSU Monterey Bay was the recipient of a $400,000 grant from biotech pioneer Genentech.

“It was an intense eight weeks,” said Dr. Aparna Sreenivasan, an associate professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology at CSUMB.

The funding will be a joint grant with UC Santa Cruz, enabling students from CSUMB to be a part of their research program.

Only 40 of the 380 applications submitted around the nation were funded for the grant.

“It’s a combination of research and teaching,” Sreenivasan said. “It shows the respect of our teaching and UCSC’s research. Our students will get a huge influence from the university over the hill.”

The grant, which comes from Genentech’s Diverse Future of STEM Fund, will provide CSUMB students with a postdoctoral mentor from UCSC’s Institute for the Biology of Stem Cells.

Based out of the Bay Area, Genentech was the first to clone insulin for people in 1978 and make synthetic insulin for humans with diabetes.

“What we wrote to them about was how minorities and first-generation students were having trouble with Wi-Fi access and equipment during COVID,” Sreenivasan said. “Some don’t have iPads. The grant supplies CSUMB students the tools to avoid COVID limitations.”

The pandemic has forced most students at CSUMB to learn remotely off campus the entire school year.

First-generation students make up 53% of CSUMB’s total enrollment, while 51% represent minorities and 32% low income. Over 40% of its students come from the tri-county area.

“Some of our students are doing work from their cars,” Sreenivasan said. “While we know students will eventually come back to campus, we have a plan in Years 2, 3 and 4, depending on the pandemic.”

That will include 12 students each year over the next four years (48 total) being fully funded. Six of the 12 will join UCSC for research experience over the summer.

“This grant will provide them materials and the research experience,” Sreenivasan said. “It will help fund the people that are mentoring them and the hardware that they’re buying.”

All students are in the department of biology and chemistry at CSUMB. The grant seeks to equalize disparities heading into STEM postgraduate studies and careers.

“The research becomes their job,” Sreenivasan said. “If they want to go to graduate school or medical school, it enhances the pipeline with our institution and UCSC. We’re establishing a nice relationship.”

The grant comes on the heels of a $4.2 million grant awarded to CSUMB and UCSC by the National Institutes of Health and Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award last fall, which launched an innovative postdoctoral training and mentorship partnership between the two institutions.

“Without the grants, we would not be able to fund the postdoctoral fellows from UCSC to CSUMB,” Sreenivasan said. “Without the Genentech grant, we certainly wouldn’t be able to provide the hardware. There is great synergy between UCSC and CSUMB. These grants provide a connection with one of the Bay Area’s premier biotech companies. This impacts our entire department, and fits directly in with the CSUMB vision.”

Contributed by local news sources

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