New masters program between UC Berkeley, UCSF approved

Kira Walker/Staff

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A new joint master’s degree program between UCSF and UC Berkeley, approved by UC President Mark Yudof last month and announced Aug. 14 by UCSF, will combine aspects of medical research, engineering techniques and business development to enhance clinical health care delivery.

The 11-month Master of Translational Medicine degree program will be managed jointly by the campus’s Department of Bioengineering and UCSF’s Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences. Program officials said they plan to enroll the first class of about 20 students in fall 2013.

The goal of the program is to “train students (on) how to develop new medical innovations into real-life clinical products such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals, (and) diagnostics,” according to Kyle Kurpinski, executive director of the program.

The curriculum is a combination of courses in bioengineering, clinical research and development, business and leadership. It also requires that students participate in a team-based capstone project, co-advised by an engineering faculty member and a faculty member with a clinical background, Kurpinski said.

“What we really emphasize is … taking something that has demonstrated feasibility and figuring out how and if it can be used clinically,” said Tejal Desai, co-director of the program, in a press release. “How (do we) get technology that is poised to leave either a small company or academia and get it into the clinical marketplace?”

The new degree program grew out of a similar master of science joint program that also emphasized cross-disciplinary work in health care delivery, which was funded by a $1.5 million gift from former Intel Chief Executive Officer Andrew Grove, according to the press release. However, the new Master of Translational Medicine degree program will focus more on professional development, business and leadership, Kurpinski said.

The degree program joins a growing number of joint graduate programs between the campus and UCSF, including a doctoral program in bioengineering and a five-year medical program. The joint programs award a diploma signed by officials from both campuses.

“We were utilizing the strengths and resources from both campuses, and by doing that, we were able to make a stronger program,” Kurpinski said. “We had stronger offerings from both universities.”

Kurpinski said the main reason for the joint effort between both campuses for this particular master’s program is because UCSF has a strong clinical focus and a medical school, while UC Berkeley has a strong engineering department.

Now, with the creation of the new degree, the program will become financially self-sufficient when the first students enroll in 2013, according to the press release. The program will receive funding through Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition fees, which were established as a means to directly fund graduate professional programs and are paid on top of students’ regular tuition. The cost of the newly created master’s program has yet to be determined.

“We wanted the Master (of Translational Medicine) for a while now, but the process of writing the proposal and submitting it to various committees takes a really long time,” Kurpinski said. “It took nearly a year, so it has been a process in and of itself.”