As delineated in the NIDDK Administrative Guidelines for the establishment of Gene Therapy Centers, the research criteria for center membership should be primarily based on:
"...gene therapy for cystic fibrosis, but can include gene therapy relevant to genetic endocrine, metabolic, digestive, liver, kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Focus, relevance, interrelationship, quality, and to some extent quantity are all considerations in judging the adequacy of the research base....". For more specific details, please refer to the Research Mission and History of NIDDK.
In the spirit of these guidelines, the membership of the Iowa Center for Gene Therapy is divided into four categories: 1) Full Membership, 2) Associate Membership, 3) Affiliates and 4) Consultants. We have particular emphasis on Cystic Fibrosis, but extend as well to other areas in which the University of Iowa has particular strengths. Researchers interested in applying for membership should contact the Center Administrative office for information (Julie Stark, 1-100 BSB, 335-7744; email@example.com). The criteria for assignment of investigators into one the three categories, and descriptions of the center privileges associated with these appointments, are as follows:
Full Membership: Investigators with an established track record, as evidenced by publications and/or grant support in the areas of gene therapy of cystic fibrosis or other genetic diseases shall be full members. For programmatic areas of research emphasis (as outlined below), this may include basic research on the pathophysiologic mechanisms of disease or the development and application of gene therapy vectors. As implied, full members of the Iowa Center shall have all benefits of membership, including subsidized access to the resources of the Cores. The Executive Committee of the Center reviews the research programs of full members every two years for renewal of membership status.
Associate Membership: Investigators with no established track record in gene therapy of cystic fibrosis or other genetic diseases, but who have recently begun projects with this theme, shall be deemed Associate members. Since a major goal of this Center is to help more junior investigators build funded careers in gene therapy research and to attract new investigators into the field of gene therapy, the research criteria for Associate Membership is not limited to active use with gene therapy vectors, but also includes several senior investigators discovering new gene mutations responsible for disease. It is the view of this Center that such investigators are the type of participants this Center would like to attract as they move to applied aspects of their research in treatment of disease by gene targeting. This category also includes pilot participants with no prior funded research in gene therapy, who shall also receive an associate membership to help facilitate their research through interactions with the Research Cores. The status of each Associate Member in the Center is reviewed on a yearly basis by the Center Executive Committee. If an Associate Member's research progresses to directly application of genetic-based molecular studies or significant collaborative efforts are established with other in this area, they are made full members. Associate members who do not continue to move forward in independent research areas related to gene therapy of CF or other genetic diseases become consultants to the center or are removed from membership. Over the past ten years this Center has been functioning, approximately 10% of Associate Members have been removed from the Center Membership due to lack of involvement or the placement of junior investigators in faculty positions at other Universities. Associate Members have full access to the Center resources for projects directly involving gene therapy, including the cores, as well as research meetings and group discussions among the members. This mechanism supports their successful entry into the area of gene therapy. Depending on the resources available for Research Core related activities, preference may be given to Full Members of the Center through differential recharge rates for Full and Associate Members. However, in all cases, the Research Cores provide full support at maximally set discounts for Associate Members working to obtain preliminary data for extramural research grants directly in the area of gene therapy. Hence, this Center assures that mechanisms are in place to attract potentially new fundable investigators into areas of gene therapy research.
Affiliates: Qualified investigators, whose research is outside the “research mission” of the NIDDK, shall be deemed Affiliates. Affiliates have access to Center Research Cores but do not receive recharge discounts for services. Affiliates are invited to attend and participate in all events sponsored by the Gene Therapy Center, including the weekly Gene Transfer Research Seminars, External Speaker Seminars, and Gene Therapy Center Retreat.
Consultants: Investigators with established, funded research programs and who may have collaborated with center members, but who may not have a research focus and track record in gene therapy or cystic fibrosis research become consultants to the center. Consultants do not normally have access to Research Cores at reduced recharge rates except under circumstances with clearly defined collaborations with Center Members. In addition to the primary research base at University of Iowa, several established Center Members have ongoing collaborations with industries such as Targeted Genetics and Genzyme. In an effort to facilitate implementation of the latest technologies in areas of vector development, we have also made several key members of these company's consultants to this Center.