Class of 2016 Candidate Interviews Completed – Difficult Selection Process Underway

Distinguished young researchers seeking to pursue a PhD or MD/PhD arrived last week at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland for activities surrounding the Class of 2016 candidate interviews. These interviews, conducted by panelists of principal investigators from across various laboratories at the NIH, was the next stage in advancing toward an offer to earn a highly coveted seat in the Class of 2016 NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program and MD/PhD Global Doctoral Partnerships Program. The program is an accelerated, individualized, doctoral training program for outstanding science students committed to biomedical research careers.

The program is based on the British system, in which students perform doctoral research without required formal courses. Established at the NIH in 2000, the concept of NIH-U.K. partnerships was developed specifically to address some of the observed limitations of the American graduate education in biomedical sciences: excessive time to completion of a PhD (7.8 years per National Research Council studies); limitation of programs to a single university, department, or discipline; inadequate preparation for the global nature of contemporary science; and limited experience in collaborative research.

Chief among these problems is the length of time to completion in the traditional program, which, even at the best universities, has resulted in young scientists emerging to begin their independent research careers at the age of 35 or even later. The awareness of these limitations inspired the vision to develop a more efficient training experience, which incorporated global collaboration and interdisciplinary biomedical research.  The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were an obvious selection for partners, due to their outstanding biomedical science and clinical schools.  With their participation, the vision evolved into a doctoral program that enables students to pursue collaborative thesis research with minimal course work and rotations and a completed PhD in an average of 4 years.  In 2006, the program also established a platform for students to pursue a combined MD/PhD.  The Rhodes Trust, Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, Churchill, Gates, and Fulbright Scholarship programs have also contributed to individuals seeking their PhDs in biomedical research through this program.

Several of the events surrounding the candidate interviews were supported by the International Biomedical Research Alliance. The Alliance, established in 2005 as a unique public-private partnership, is comprised of a group of dedicated private citizens with the shared aim of training a new generation of top biomedical researchers who are better equipped to investigate human diseases and develop new preventions, treatments, and cures. Emergent BioSolutions, a pioneer in its support for the Scholars Program through the Alliance, generously sponsored the Class of 2016 Candidates’ Dinner on the evening of February 16, 2016. “Emergent BioSolutions is honored to be a longstanding partner of the Alliance and the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Program,” said Tracey Schmitt Lintott, Emergent’s SVP Global Public Affairs. “As a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to protect and enhance life, supporting our talented scholars and fueling their innovation and passion in biomedical research is an investment not only in their future, but also in the scientific workforce of tomorrow.”

Scholars chosen for the Class of 2016 will be notified prior to the end of February. Each scholar receives the equivalent of $300,000-$550,000 in funding. To learn more about the Scholars Program visit http://oxcam.gpp.nih.gov/.