Alumni Spotlight

Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly, CIRM Intern 2014/2015

Since completing my CIRM internship in Dr. Marius Wernig’s lab, I have been working at a startup company called, I Peace (sounds like iPS). I helped to launch this company from the ground up with Dr. Koji Tanabe, whom I met while working in my host lab. We are developing a new method for generating patient-derived, clinical-grade iPS cells, to drastically reduce the costs associated with current methods and to make this technology affordable for everyone. In just over one year, we have applied for over a dozen patents, have secured series A funding, and are constructing a new lab. The CIRM internship gave me the opportunity to develop working connections and several close friendships with other scientists, the skills necessary to conduct the research needed to advance our company’s vision, and it gave me the opportunity to showcase my dedication and work ethic (which is why I was hired). Participation in the CIRM-Bridges program was the single most important factor which opened this door for me and for which I am deeply grateful and indebted. For the future, I hope to be fortunate enough to continue exploring nature, while trying to make the world a better place.


Samantha Shelton

Samantha Shelton, CIRM Intern 2014/2015

During my one-year internship with CIRM I was accepted to Boston University’s Graduate Program for Neuroscience. At the end of my year with CIRM, I moved to Boston where I am currently a second year PhD student.

My thesis work focuses on the development of the neural cortex and how cell type specificity regulates normal development versus disease. I combine in utero electroporation and in situ hybridization techniques to elucidate gene expression differences between cortical neuron groups in order to develop markers for specific cell types in the brain that may play important roles in neurological disease.Additionally, I have been working on a project aimed at studying early neural progenitor development in mice infected with zika virus to start to understand the etiology of microcephaly.

CIRM provided invaluable hands on training in cell culture and stem cell techniques that have made me a valuable resource for a laboratory. This allowed me to work in one of the top neurodevelopmental labs in the world, where my understanding of early development was vastly expanded. This lab experience instilled a new found passion for neurodevelopment and ultimately guided my decision in what laboratory to join for my graduate studies. There is no doubt that CIRM made me a more competitive candidate for a doctoral degree but also provided me with tools to progress towards my ultimate goal of understanding and potentially treating neurological diseases with stem cell technologies.

Du Chen

Du Chen, HSU CIRM Bridges Intern 2011/2012

  • CIRM Research Fellowship, Stanford University 08/2011-08/2012
  • MD-PhD student, Weill Cornell/Rockefeller U/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program, 06/2013 - now
  • CEO and owner, iDu Optics LLC (LabCam microscope adapter), 11/2014-now
  • Founder of Dimensionworks: Weill Cornell 3D Printing Initiative, 06/2014-now
  • Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, Class of 2016

Both of my academic and business track started in CIRM funded class and CIRM fellowship. I invented the technology that I form my company on in the CIRM funded Stem Cell class. Instructor of the class Dr. Amy Sprowles highly encouraged me to carry on the idea. Later, I was able to get in the MD-PhD program because of the invaluable research experiences CIRM research program provided me. CIRM initiated the momentum to get me where I am today.



Cody Kime

Cody Kime, CIRM Intern 2011/2012

  • CIRM Scholar, Shinya Yamanaka Lab, The Gladstone Institutes -- 1 year
  • Research Associate 2, Shinya Yamanaka Lab, The Gladstone Institutes – 2.5 years
  • International Program Associate/Research Scientist, Lab of Retinal Regeneration, Center of Developmental Biology, RIKEN, Kobe, Japan. 1.5 years
  • Kyoto University of Medicine, Doctor of Medical Sciences Program, Kyoto, Japan 1.5 years

Securing a CIRM grant provided the self-funding to take a position among the most competitive labs in the emergent field of cell reprogramming. With previous training at HSU and CIRM-funding I leveraged significant freedom to explore my interests in cell biology and cell programs, a field I plan to work with indefinitely. My recent studies have been on converting cells toward early embryonic cells, such as naïve embryonic stem cells, by communicating with cells’ gene regulatory networks using less intrusive means than traditional reprogramming. My ultimate hypothesis is to understand and develop the ‘cell whisper’ moment where any targeted cells rapidly convert to a desired cell identity in 4D (x,y,z,program).

Sara Mills

Sara Mills (Downey), CIRM Intern 2009/2010

As a member of the first class of CIRM Bridges Scholars, I was placed in the Costello Lab at UCSF, part of the Brain Tumor Research Group in the Helen Diller Cancer Center at Mission Bay. One of the Costello Lab's focuses is on methylation-regulated epigenetics as part of the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project. Following completion of my tenure at UCSF, my CIRM scholarship caught the eye of (now) Chief Scientific Officer at ViaCyte in San Diego, Kevin D'Amour. At ViaCyte and I was hired as a Research Associate I, I was exposed to the level of quality and document control required to move a human embryonic derived cell therapy towards and into a clinical trial and discovered my knack for process and product development. I assisted in technical review and writing of the IND (Investigatory New Drug) application for the combination product (VC-01), supervised development of the aseptic, GMP (good manufacturing practices) process and documentation for final formulate, fill and finish of VC-01 and over saw logistics and execution of the first 4 patient builds. After 4 1/2 years at ViaCyte I left as a Senior Associate in Process Development and accepted a job offer at Organovo, Inc. During my tenure at Organovo I lead development of mid-scale up and scale out of multiple primary cell culture processes and also process and product development of the ExVive Human Kidney Tissue Model which launched in September 2016 and was promoted to Scientist, I. I am now a full-time consultant with Dark Horse Consulting, Inc. which specializes in regulatory control, failure and risk analysis, product and process development planning, troubleshooting and manufacturing evaluation for cell and gene therapy companies world-wide.