University of Michigan Leads Nation in NIDCR Funding

Dentistry Today


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry received more research funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in fiscal 2017 than any other dental institution in the country.

The school received $16.3 million to fund a variety of oral health research, including projects related to childhood caries prevention, head and neck cancer, and regeneration of dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury, or congenital disorders.

Also, the school’s total is nearly double what it received in 2016 and is the most the school has received in a single fiscal year in at least the last 20 years—possibly the most ever, the research office staff said, noting that records dating further back in the school’s history weren’t immediately available.

“Being a national leader in dental and craniofacial research takes not only dedicated scientists and clinicians doing complex and important research, but also a great support staff,” said Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD, dean of the school.

Research teams include lab assistants, faculty associates, graduate students, research fellows, and administrators who assist in shepherding the science from the lab bench through the often complicated grant application process.

“Ultimately, the goal is to translate research into scientific breakthroughs and innovative treatments that improve public health,” McCauley said. “I’m proud of the entire school’s commitment and leadership in meeting that challenge day in and day out.”

“It’s important to point out that the NIDCR has very high standards for the types of projects they fund, so we also need to acknowledge the high quality of our research,” said Russell Taichman, DMD, DMSc, associate dean for research. 

Last year, the school earned the largest grant in from NIDCR in its history. The multi-year $11.7 million award will support the Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center, founded to find and support promising new regenerative medicine protocols that can restore damaged dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues.

Led by David Kohn, PhD, and William Giannobile, DDS, MS, DMSc, the center brings together a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, clinicians, and regulatory and technology commercialization experts who evaluate projects submitted by researchers from academic, for-profit, and non-profit organizations. 

Margherita Fontana, DDS, PhD, is the principal investigator for two teams of researchers from the school and other universities who will expand research into predicting caries risk in young children and assessing the efficacy of a new treatment. Both grants total $18.3 million over several years.

The first study, “Predicting Caries Risk in Underserved Children, from Toddlers to the School-Age Years, in Primary Healthcare Settings,” expands the age range for assessing which children are at risk for developing caries. A related previous study focused on children up to the age of 4. The new grant will continue that research for children up to the age of 8.

The second new study is a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of silver diamine fluoride in arresting caries in children. It will closely follow 1,060 children, ages 2 to 5, in preschool programs such as Head Start during a school year.

Nisha D’Silva, BDS, MSD, PhD, received NIDCR’s Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) for her continuing research into the molecular pathways that control the spread and recurrence of head and neck cancer, with the ultimate goal of improving the survival rate for these patients. The grant provides $8.1 million over eight years.

D’Silva’s findings may enable clinicians to identify patients who will best respond to existing treatments and might lead to new treatment strategies. SOAR provides long-term support for NIDCR-funded investigators who in the middle of their careers and have outstanding records of research productivity, mentorship, and professional service to the research community.

Also, the NIDCR funded the continuation of the 40-year Tissue Engineering at Michigan grant. The NIDCR funded $3 million over five years for the program, which provides an interdisciplinary research-intensive training environment for advanced degree candidates pursuing careers in the oral sciences, with a focus on the restoration of oral-craniofacial tissues.

After the University of Michigan, the top five dental institutions receiving NIDCR grants in 2017 included the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of California San Francisco, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Forsythe Institute in Cambridge, Mass.

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