ACTIVITIES OF THE NIDCR DIRECTOR
Since the last meeting of the National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council, NIDCR Director Lawrence Tabak met with professional organizations, research associations, and dental schools to discuss the future of dental, oral, and craniofacial research and efforts in areas of extraordinary scientific promise. He also continued to serve on the NIH Steering Committee that oversees governance issues at NIH and to co-chair the NIH Roadmap Working Group on Interdisciplinary Research Teams of the Future, the NIH Information Technology Working Group, the Strategic Advisory Committee on Human Resources, and the NIH Pain Consortium.
During October and November, Dr. Tabak was the guest speaker at a number of dental schools. He discussed a “Systems View of Oral Biology” at the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry’s 5th Annual Research Day, delivered an address on “Molecular Medicine Enters the Mouth” at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry Research Convocation in Morgantown, WV, and was the featured speaker at the Craniofacial Biology Symposium sponsored by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. He also was the distinguished lecturer at Ohio State University School of Medicine where he spoke about “The NIH Role in Catalyzing Team Research of the Future” and he presented the annual Leo M. Sreebny Lecture at SUNY at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine where he focused on “Molecular Medicine Enters the Mouth.”
During October, the NIDCR Director gave an interview about the Institute, its budgetary prospects, and some of the challenges that lie ahead for the dental and oral health research community. The complete interview is available at the Inside Scoop on the NIDCR website.
Dr. Tabak also attended several professional meetings over the past few months where he spoke about saliva and salivary diagnostics. He was the keynote speaker at the New York Academy of Sciences Meeting on Oral-Based Diagnostics, held in Lake Lanier Islands, GA, where he delivered a talk on “Point of Care Diagnostics Enters the Mouth.” The symposium brought together leaders in the areas of toxicology, pathology, oral biology, dental research, and clinical medicine to discuss advances in the field of oral diagnostics. At the 2006 Annual Session of the American Dental Association held in Las Vegas, NV, Dr. Tabak discussed “New Salivary Diagnostics and Therapeutics.” He focused on new and emerging tools that enable earlier detection of disease using saliva as a diagnostic fluid and emerging methods to correct salivary gland and systemic diseases. Finally, the NIDCR Director attended the meeting of the Northeastern Society of Periodontists in New York where he gave an address on “Emerging Science: Inflammation, Risk Assessment and New Treatment Modalities.”
Including the effect of administrative reductions and the transfer-out of $3.5 million to support NIH Roadmap projects, NIDCR’s appropriation was $385.6 million.
Funding for research project grants was $239.5 million and supported 640 awards. The Centers program was funded at a level of $12.5 million in support of 10 research centers. Additionally, 85 Research Career Development Award (RCDA) awards and 300 full-time training positions were funded.
NIDCR is funded through February 15 under a continuing resolution at a funding level scaled to last year’s budget of $389.3 million, which includes funds for the support of NIH Roadmap projects. For comparison purposes, the President’s Request for FY 2007 was $386.1 million for NIDCR, including funds for the support of NIH Roadmap activities.
Information regarding the FY 2008 budget for NIDCR will not be available until public release, currently scheduled for early February.
NIH Reform Act of 2006
On December 8, the Senate passed by unanimous consent the NIH Reform Act of 2006 which reauthorizes NIH at a level of $30.3 billion (a 6 percent increase) for FY 2007 and $32.8 billion (an 8 percent increase) for FY 2008. Other provisions of the legislation include the establishment of a formal strategic planning process for the entire research portfolio of the NIH, a scientific management review group to review the structure of NIH every seven years, and a common fund to promote trans-NIH research activities. In addition, the Act limits the overall size of the NIH to the existing 27 institutes and centers and creates a new, comprehensive electronic reporting system that will, for the first time, catalogue all NIH research activities in a standardized format. Finally, the legislation authorizes the NIH Director to award grants for demonstration projects for research bridging the biological sciences with the physical, chemical, mathematical, and computational sciences and to implement demonstration programs that award grants, contracts, or engage in other transactions, for high-impact, cutting-edge research. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law by January 15.
NIH in the Post-Doubling Era: Realities and Strategies
An article by NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., appeared in the November 17 issue of Science, entitled “NIH Funding in the Post-Doubling Era: Realities and Strategies.”
From the Desk of the NIH Director
See the NIH Director’s latest newsletter.
NIH Launches National Consortium to Transform Clinical Research
On October 3, Dr. Zerhouni announced the launch of a national consortium that will transform how clinical and translational research is conducted, ultimately enabling researchers to provide new treatments more efficiently and quickly to patients. This new consortium, funded through Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), begins with 12 academic health centers located throughout the nation. An additional 52 academic health centers are receiving planning grants to help them prepare applications to join the consortium. When fully implemented in 2012, about 60 institutions will be linked together to energize the discipline of clinical and translational science. Questions and answers about the CTSA consortium are available. A second round of CTSA applications is due to the NIH on January 17, 2007.
NIH Funds Largest Long-term Study of Health and Disease in Hispanic/Latino Populations
Seven NIH components—including the NIDCR—are conducting the largest long-term epidemiological study of health and disease in Latin American populations living in the United States. As many as 16,000 participants of Hispanic/Latino origin — 4,000 at each of four sites — will undergo a series of physical examinations and interviews to help identify the prevalence of and risk factors for a wide variety of diseases, disorders, and conditions. Participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study (HCHS) range in age from 18 to 74 years and will be followed over time for occurrence of disease. The study contracts total $61 million over 6 ½ years. The primary funding agency is the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In addition to NIDCR, the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements are participating. Dr. Maria Canto, director of the Health Promotion and Community Based Research Program, is the NIDCR program officer for the HCHS.
Changes for R01 Applicants
Beginning February 5, 2007 and beyond, NIH will require electronic application submission for all R01 applications. A training webcast about the new process was held on December 5 and is available for viewing. In addition, see full details about the new application process.
NIH Director Announces 2007 Pioneer Award Competition
Dr. Zerhouni has launched a new round of competition for the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. This signature program supports exceptionally creative scientists who take highly innovative -- and potentially transformative -- approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. Each Pioneer Award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over five years. Scientists at all career levels and engaged in any field of research may apply for the Pioneer Award as long as they are interested in exploring biomedically relevant topics. Applications are due by January 16, 2007.
NIH Announces More than 50 Awards in the Pathway to Independence Program
On November 30, Dr. Zerhouni named 58 recipients in the first round of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award. The Pathway to Independence Program offers a new opportunity for promising postdoctoral scientists to receive both mentored and independent research support from the same award. NIH received almost 900 applications and will issue between 150 and 200 awards. All NIH Institutes and Centers participate in the program.
Licensing Opportunities for Rare Disease Technologies Announced
On December 11, NIH launched a website offering technologies available for commercial licensing that are related to rare diseases or conditions. The listing consists of more than 500 technologies, including drugs, biologics, and devices, available to be transferred from the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration to the private sector for further research and development and potential commercialization. “By making it easier for pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions to identify licensing opportunities, this new site will help facilitate the transfer of research advances from bench to bedside where the interventions can ultimately benefit the patients,” said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni.
Private Partnership Forms the Biomarkers Consortium to Advance the Science of Personalized Medicine
On October 5, The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), NIH, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) announced the launch of a major public-private biomedical research partnership called The Biomarkers Consortium. This unique partnership will design and perform clinical studies to validate biological markers to accelerate the delivery of successful new technologies, medicines, and therapies for prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. The first projects will focus on lymphoma, lung cancer, depression and diabetes.
NIH Grantees Win 2006 Nobel Prizes
The 2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was shared by two long-time NIH grantees, Andrew Z. Fire, Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine and Craig C. Mello, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The researchers were honored for their discovery of RNA interference, a mechanism for silencing genes that could lead to new disease treatments. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences began supporting the work of Fire in 1987 and Mello in 1999. The 2006 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to long-time NIH grantee, Roger D. Kornberg, Ph.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine for his studies of how genetic information is transcribed into RNA, which is translated to make proteins, molecules essential to life. Dr. Kornberg is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Cancer Institute.
NIDCR-Affiliated Researchers Receive Prestigious MacArthur Fellowships
Two NIDCR-affiliated investigators--Drs. Kenneth Catania and Linda Griffith--were among the 2006 recipients of MacArthur Fellowships, more commonly known as "genius grants." The fellowships are awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to a broad range of individuals, "for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future." NIDCR grantee Kenneth Catania, a comparative neurobiologist from Vanderbilt University, is studying the cortical representation of dentition in naked mole rats and plasticity after tooth loss. Dr. Linda Griffith, a bioengineer at MIT, is an outgoing member of the NIDCR National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council. At the intersection of materials science, cell surface chemistry, physiology, and anatomy, Griffith is extending the limits of biomedical engineering and its applications for diagnosing disease and regenerating damaged organs.
Stephen E. Straus, M.D., Becomes Senior Advisory to NIH Director
On November 7, Dr. Stephen E. Straus, Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), stepped down from his leadership of the Center for health reasons. Dr. Straus will become senior advisor to the NIH Director. Dr. Zerhouni has named Ruth L. Kirschstein, M.D., formerly Acting Director of NIH, to be the acting director of NCCAM.
Study Finds Periodontal Treatment Does Not Lower Preterm Birth Risk
Scientists supported by the NIDCR reported in the November 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that pregnant women who received non-surgical treatment for their periodontal disease did not also significantly lower their risk of delivering a premature or low-birthweight baby. These results come from the largest clinical trial to date to evaluate whether treating periodontal disease during pregnancy reduces a women’s risk of early delivery, an idea that has emerged as a possibility in recent years. Non-surgical, or standard, periodontal treatment involves thoroughly cleaning the teeth above and below the gums, commonly called scaling and root planing. The study, called the Obstetrics and Periodontal Therapy Trial (OPT), also evaluated the safety of general dental care during pregnancy. It found that dental treatment through the second trimester - both general and periodontal care – did not increase the number of adverse events for women during pregnancy. The authors of the study are Bryan S. Michalowicz, James S. Hodges, Anthony J. DiAngelis, Virginia R. Lupo, M. John Novak, James E. Ferguson, William Buchanan, James Bofill, Panos N. Papapanou, Dennis A. Mitchell, Stephen Matseoane, and Pat A. Tschida from four participating centers--Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN, University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY, University of Mississippi/Jackson Medical Mall in Jackson, MS, and Harlem Hospital/Columbia University in New York City.
Drug Shows Promise in Laboratory as Oral Cancer Treatment
For the thousands of Americans diagnosed each year with oral squamous cell carcinoma, a cornerstone of their treatment is a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin. As potent as cisplatin is at killing tumor cells, a small subset often grow resistant to the drug and survive. This has left oncologists in great need of a second chemotherapy agent to kill the cisplatin-resistant cells. In the October 20 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, NIDCR grantees report that they may have the solution. It’s called PS-341, which belongs to a new class of chemotherapeutic drugs that can induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, independently of conventional cancer therapy. In a series of laboratory experiments, the scientists found PS-341 “potently” triggered apoptosis in cultured oral squamous cell carcinoma cells that were known to be resistant to cisplatin. The scientists also worked out the biochemical details, showing PS-341 does its deadly deed through a novel signaling pathway that is activated as a stress response in the endoplasmic reticulum, the cytoplasmic organelle where proteins are synthesized. Investigators on the study included A. M. Fribley, B. Evenchik, Q. Zeng, B. K. Park, J. Y. Guan, H. Zhang, T. J. Hale, M. S. Soengas, R. J. Kaufman, and C. Y. Wang from the Howard Hughes Medical Institution and the University of Michigan.
Gene Offers New Lead in Cleft Lip and Palate Research
NIDCR-supported researchers reported in the journal Science that a much-studied gene called SUMO1, when under expressed, can cause cleft lip and palate. With several genes already implicated in causing cleft lip and palate, the authors note their addition to the list comes with a unique biological twist. The SUMO1 gene encodes a small protein that is attached to the protein products of at least three previously discovered “clefting” genes during facial development, in essence linking them into or near a shared regulatory pathway and now hotspot for clefting. “The big challenge for research on cleft lip and palate is to move from studying individual genes to defining individual protein networks,” said Dr. Richard Maas, a scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and senior author on the paper. “What’s exciting about SUMO1 is it allows us for the first time to begin to connect at least some of the dots and hopefully lock into a highly informative protein network that feeds into additional protein networks to form the palate, or roof of the mouth.” Dr. Maas’ collaborators included Fowzan S. Alkuraya, Irfan Saadi, Jennifer J. Lund, Annick Turbe-Doan, and Cynthia M. Norton from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
New Route of Pain Transmission Discovered
Recent advances in human biology show that nociception is a dynamic process that often involves multiple routes, or pathways, to the spinal cord and brain. Each pathway integrates a convergence of molecular signals, then relays them to the brain. A major challenge for pain researchers has been defining the myriad nociceptive routes. In the October 22 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, NIDCR scientists, grantees, and colleagues report a completely new pathway involved in the pain process. The pathway’s relevance to pain processing was suggested by the finding in rats that its activity increased dramatically with three different kinds of painful nerve injury. This finding was reinforced by the group’s discovery that people born with a certain variant of GCH1 gene, which participates in this pathway, are less sensitive to acute pain and less likely to develop chronic pain following a certain type of back surgery. The GCH1 gene encodes an enzyme called GTP cyclohydrolase, which is involved in folate and biopterin biosynthesis. These data suggest that inhibiting this enzyme might help to prevent or control chronic pain. The study was conducted by I. Tegeder, M. Costigan, R. S. Griffin, A. Abele, I. Belfer, H. Schmidt, C. Ehnert, J. Nejim, C. Marian, J. Scholz, T. Wu, A. Allchorne, L. Diatchenko, A. M. Binshtok, D. Goldman, J. Adolph, S. Sama, S. J. Atlas, W. A. Carlezon, A. Parsegian, J. Lotsch, R. B. Fillingim, W. Maixner, G. Geisslinger, M. Max, C. J. Woolf from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Pharmazentrum Frankfurt, Germany, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the NIDCR, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, University of Florida College of Dentistry, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Researchers Report Initial Success in Promising New Approach to Prevent Tooth Decay
A team of researchers supported by the NIDCR report they have created a new smart anti-microbial treatment that can be chemically programmed in the laboratory to seek out and kill Steptococcus mutans within 30 seconds from an oral biofilm without any collateral damage to related but non pathogenic species attached nearby. The experimental treatment, reported online in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, is called a STAMP. The acronym stands for “specifically targeted antimicrobial peptides” and, like its postal namesake, STAMPs have a two-sided structure. The first is the short homing sequence of a pheromone, a signaling chemical that can be as unique as a fingerprint to a bacterium and assures the STAMP will find its target. The second is a small anti-microbial bomb that is chemically linked to the homing sequence and kills the bacterium upon delivery. “We’ve already moved the S. mutans STAMP into human studies, where it can be applied as part of a paste or mouthrinse,” said Dr. Wenyuan Shi, senior author on the paper and a scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry. “We’re also developing other dental STAMPs that target the specific oral microbes involved in periodontal disease and possibly even halitosis. Thereafter, we hope to pursue possible medical applications of this technology.” In addition to Dr. Shi, the study authors are R. Eckert, J. He, D.K. Yarbrough, and M.H. Anderson.
Scientists Clarify Primary Source of Protein Associated with Periodontal Bone Loss
As active periodontal lesions progress, they contain increased amounts of RANKL, a much-studied messenger glycoprotein that is a key natural factor in stimulating cells called osteoclasts to degrade and reabsorb bone. What remains unclear is which of the myriad cell types at active gingival lesions secrete RANKL, critical information in learning how to better prevent bone and tooth loss from periodontal disease. In the September issue of American Journal of Pathology, a team of NIDCR grantees offer an answer. Comparing healthy and diseased tissue from 32 patients with bone resorptive periodontitis, they found both immune T and B cells are the primary sources of RANKL. Their data show that more than 50 percent of lesion infiltrating T cells and more than 90 percent of lesion infiltrating B cells produced the glycoprotein. In healthy gingival tissue, less than 20 percent of T and B cells expressed RANKL. These findings support the idea that increased production of RANKL may be necessary to disturb the delicate balance between bone resorption and bone replacement, tipping the biochemical milieu near the affected tooth socket toward the bone loss that plagues those with severe periodontal disease. The research was conducted by T. Kawai, T. Matsuyama, Y. Hosokawa, S. Makihira, M. Seki, N. Karimbux, R. B. Goncalves, P. Valverde, S. Dibart, Y.P. Li, L. A. Miranda, C. W. O. Ernst, Y. Izumi, and M. Taubman at The Forsyth Institute, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, the Goldman School of Graduate Dentistry, Boston University, Kagoshima University, Japan, and Mitsubishi Pharma, Japan.
Gene Identified for Osteogenesis Imperfecta
In the October 20 issue of the journal Cell, NIDCR grantees and colleagues report that mutations in the human Cartilage-Associated Protein (CRTAP) gene can cause different types of osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), also called brittle bone disease. Until now, OI has been thought to be due to dominant mutations in type I collagen, the major protein of bone. However, CRTAP mutations cause a recessive form that is characterized by low bone mass, bone fragility, and long-bone deformities. The scientists show that CRTAP complexes with the P3H1 enzyme to make needed post translational modifications to fibrillar forming collagen proteins, key structural components of mineralized and connective tissues. When the CRTAP gene is altered, the process breaks down to varying degrees. According to the authors, the specific location and/or type of mutation in the CRTAP gene seem to determine the severity of the condition. “At the milder end of the spectrum, the clinical picture is one of bone fragility and short limbs seen in OI type VII; at the severe end, the phenotype is similar to lethal OI type II,” concluded the authors. The study authors are R. Morello, T.K. Bertin, Y. Chen, J. Hicks, L. Tonachini, M. Monticone, P. Castagnola, F. Rauch, F.H. Glorieux, J. Vranka, H. P. Bachinger, J. M. Pace, U. Schwarze, P.H. Byers, M. Weis, R. J. Fernandes, D. R. Eyre, Z. Yao, B. F. Boyce, and B. Lee from the Baylor College of Medicine.
MEETINGS, WORKSHOPS, AND LECTURES
Dr. Barry R. Bloom Delivers Barmes Global Health Lecture
Barry R. Bloom, Ph.D., Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobsen Professor of Public Health, delivered the 2006 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture on December 4. The annual lecture, jointly sponsored by NIDCR and the Fogarty International Center, honors the late David E. Barmes, a long-standing World Health Organization employee, special expert for international health in the NIDCR Office of International Health, and ardent spokesman for global health. Dr. Bloom discussed “Agendas and Architecture of Global Health Research.”
Symposium Honors Dr. Lois K. Cohen
A symposium honoring Dr. Lois K. Cohen, former NIDCR associate director for international health who recently retired from government service, was held December 11. The symposium, entitled “The Integral Role of Behavioral and Social Sciences in a Systems Approach to Oral Health Research: A Tribute to Dr. Lois K. Cohen,” took place on the NIH campus and featured a look at social and behavioral research in oral health and a discussion of research needs and opportunities.
NIH Conference on Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences
The NIH Conference on Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences was oversubscribed with nearly 1,500 registrants. The conference, held October 23-24, focused on three broad areas of action influencing health disparities: policy, prevention, and health care. It emphasized basic research on the behavioral, social and biomedical pathways that give rise to disparities in health as well as applied research on the development, testing, and delivery of interventions to reduce disparities in these three action areas. Dr. Ruth Nowjack-Raymer, director of the Health Disparities Research Program, serves on the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research’s Working Group on Health Disparities that planned the conference.
American Association for Dental Research Meeting
NIDCR staff will host several events at the upcoming 85th General Session of the American Association for Dental Research, to be held March 21-24 in New Orleans. The Office of Training and Career Development will sponsor an NIDCR trainees’ poster session open to all trainees supported by NIDCR career development grants, fellowships, or supplements; a trainees’ meeting with NIDCR Director Lawrence Tabak; the T32 training directors’ annual meeting; a workshop on Essentials in Grant Writing; and a presentation on NIDCR research training and career development opportunities. In addition, individual consultations will be available at the NIDCR exhibition booth. Dr. Bruce Pihlstrom, acting director of the Center for Clinical Research, is organizing two symposia--one on the Roadmap Clinical Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) and the other on the Dental Practice-Based Research Networks.
Other Meetings Attended by NIDCR Staff:
10th International Conference for the Institute of Human Virology
36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience
2006 Mid-Atlantic Bio Meeting
NIH Symposium on the Functional Genomics of Critical Illness and Injury
NIH-FDA Workshop on Understanding the Genetic Basis of Medication Safety
Research to Policy and Practice Forum: Periodontal Health and Birth Outcomes
Scientific Advisory Committee meeting of the Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) Study
Steering Committee/Extramural awardee meeting for the PROMISE initiative
University of Maryland Medical School Games for Health Meeting
U.S. Interagency Working Group on the Microbe Project (MPIWG) Cell-Cell Communications Workshop
RESEARCH TRAINING AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
Recently Issued Program Announcements
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) for Individual Senior Fellows (F33)
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32)
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) for Individual Predoctoral Fellowships (F31) to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research
NIDCR’s 50th and final K22 award was funded in September 2006. NIDCR has discontinued its involvement in the K22 mechanism to participate fully in the NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award program. Dr. Zerhouni announced the first round of the K99 awards on November 30 (see story p.4). Those funded include one award from NIDCR – Dr. Johann Eberhart from the University of Oregon who is investigating “Genetic Hierarchies and Cellular Behaviors During Zebrafish Palatogenesis (K99 DE018088).
Two K22 awardees recently moved into the Faculty Transition Phase of their awards—
• Dr. Xiaofeng (Charles) Zhou (K22 DE014847) accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry to continue his research in genomic predictors of oral premalignancy progression. Dr. Zhou recently published a paper in Neoplasia (Zhou X, Temam S, Oh M, Pungpravat N, Huang BL, Mao L, Wong DT. Global expression-based classification of lymph node metastasis and extracapsular spread of oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma. Neoplasia 2006 Nov;8(11):925-32.)
• Dr. Laura Gammill (K22 DE015309) accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the University of Minnesota Medical School to continue her research on neural crest genes in craniofacial development. Dr. Gammill recently published a paper in the Journal of Neurobiology (Gammill LS, Gonzalez C, Bronner-Fraser M. Neuropilin 2/semaphorin 3F signaling is essential for cranial neural crest migration and trigeminal ganglion condensation. J Neurobiol 2006 Oct 20; [Epub ahead of print]).
Presentation of Training and Career Development Opportunities
Dr. Kevin Hardwick, special assistant for research infrastructure and curriculum development, visited Baylor College of Dentistry and the University of Illinois at Chicago where he met with dental students, graduate students, and faculty members to present information about NIDCR scientific initiatives and NIH and NIDCR opportunities for research training and career development. He also participated in the Hinman Dental Student Research Symposium held in Memphis, October 27-29. NIDCR provides support for this annual meeting, which brings dental students from schools around the country to present their research projects. Former NIDCR Deputy Director Dushanka Kleinman was the keynote speaker at the opening dinner and Dr. Hardwick gave a presentation on NIDCR scientific initiatives and training opportunities for dental students interested in research careers.
Dr. Albert Avila, extramural training officer, presented NIDCR training and career development funding opportunities at the meeting of the Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities held October 26 (see story p. 15).
CENTER FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
Requests for Applications
Building the Tooth: Bridging Biology and Material Sciences. (Limited Competition) [U54]
Manufactured Nanomaterials: Physico-Chemical Principles of Biocompatibility and Toxicity (R01)
Enabling Technologies for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (R01)
Neuroscience Blueprint Stem Cell Workshop Organizing Committee
Dr. Nadya Lumelsky, director of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Dental Medicine Research Program, is now the NIDCR representative on the Neuroscience Blueprint Stem Cell Workshop Organizing Committee. In addition, she became a member of the Multi-Agency Tissue Engineering Science (MATES) group.
CENTER FOR INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Requests for Applications
Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP) Repository (U42)
Protein Biomarkers of Infection-Associated Cancers (R01)
Research on Malignancies in AIDS and Acquired Immune Suppression (R01)
Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders: Pathophysiological Mechanisms Linking Comorbid Conditions (R01)
Immunology of Biofilms (R01)
Immunology of Biofilms (R21)
Mechanisms, Models, Measurement, and Management in Pain Research (R21)
Mechanisms, Models, Measurement, and Management in Pain Research (R03)
Mechanisms, Models, Measurement, and Management in Pain Research (R01)
Tools for Zebrafish Research (R01)
Genetic and Genomic Analyses of Xenopus (R01)
Novel Approaches to Study Polymicrobial Diseases (R01)
Metagenomic Analyses of the Oral Microbiome (R01)
Pharmacogenetics of Fluoride (R01)
Pathophysiology of Bisphosphonates-Associated Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (R01)
Biology and Treatment of Malignant Salivary Gland Cancers
In collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, NIDCR organized and hosted a workshop on the “Biology and Treatment of Malignant Salivary Gland Cancers,” October 23-24 in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Yasaman Shirazi, director of the Epithelial Cell Regulation and Transformation Program, served on the planning committee for the workshop. Participants discussed the state of the knowledge of the biology, treatment, and clinical management of patients with salivary gland cancers.
Head and Neck Steering Committee
At the December 1 meeting of the Head and Neck Steering Committee, the group addressed the design and prioritization of phase III clinical trials that leverage talent and resources in the current head and neck cancer Intergroup, the Cooperative Group, SPORE, Cancer Centers and the broad oncology community. They also discussed membership and issues revolving around transition to this new paradigm. Dr. Shirazi will serve as the NIDCR liaison to the committee.
Metabolomics Technology Development Team
Dr. Shirazi represents the NIDCR as a member of the Metabolomics Technology Development Team, a trans-NIH Roadmap committee. During the fall meeting, the group reviewed 68 applications received in response to “Using Metabolomics to Investigate Biological Pathways and Networks (R01). This RFA serves as a new model for the process by which Roadmap projects will transition back to the Institutes and Centers for funding.
Task Force on Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Dr. Lillian Shum, director of the Mineralized Tissue and Salivary Gland Physiology Program, participates in the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Task Force on Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ). A report summarizing the work and recommendations from the task force is in preparation. The task force brings together physicians, dentists/oral surgeons, and scientists to provide recommendations for a provisional case definition of ONJ, clinical diagnosis and management, and a research agenda that elucidates the epidemiology and pathophysiology of the disorder.
10th International Conference on Malignancies in AIDS and Other Immunodeficiencies
Dr. Nokta served on the scientific committee of the 10th International Conference on Malignancies in AIDS and Other Immunodeficiencies, held October 16-17 in Bethesda, MD. In addition to helping select the topics that were addressed at the conference, he moderated one of the oral presentation sessions at the meeting.
CENTER FOR CLINICAL RESEARCH
Recently Issued Program Announcements
Clinical Studies of Bisphosphonate Therapy and Osteonecrosis of the Jaws (R01)
Epidemiological and Behavioral Research in Oral Health (R01)
Oral Health of Special Needs and Older Populations (R01)
Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (R01)
Research on Mind-Body Interactions and Health (R01)
Social and Cultural Dimensions of Health (R01)
Understanding and Promoting Health Literacy (R01)
Understanding and Promoting Health Literacy (R21)
Understanding and Promoting Health Literacy (R03)
Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities
The annual meeting of NIDCR’s Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities took place October 25 at NIH. Participants included oral health disparities researchers who attended the NIH Conference on “Understanding and Reducing Health Disparities: Contributions from the Behavioral and Social Sciences” (see story p. 9) and representatives from government agencies. The Center principal investigators and staff gave presentations about their research and training activities under way to increase the cadre of researchers from diverse backgrounds. Included in the presentations were descriptions of successful recruitment and retention efforts for clinical trials and other studies. The annual meeting included a poster session featuring 30 projects and presentations by Dr. Tabak and Dr. John Ruffin, Director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The centers recently completed their fifth year of funding.
Practice-Based Research Networks (PBRNS)
The PBRNs have recruited over 400 dental practitioners in 24 states and Scandinavia and continue to develop infrastructure and refine the processes required to conduct clinical research in the private practice environment. The following studies are in progress, with several others in various stages of development:
• Methods and outcomes of early caries diagnosis and treatment (DPBRN)
• Reasons for placing the first tooth restoration (DPBRN)
• Reasons for replacement or repair of dental restorations (DPBRN)
• Methods and outcomes of treating advanced carious lesions (PEARL)
• Post-operative sensitivity following placement of dental restorations (PEARL)
• Prevalence of oral disease in a PBRN (PRECEDENT)
• Prevalence and risk factors for osteonecrosis of the jaw associated with bisphosphonate drugs (trans–PBRN study involving all three PBRNs)
Two studies are in the process of being initiated in the PBRNs to assess the prevalence and risk factors for osteonecrosis of the jaws in patients with a history of bisphosphonate therapy. The projects are undergoing IRB review and are scheduled to begin data collection this month.
The PBRN Monitoring Committee met via teleconference in November. The committee meets twice a year to review the PBRNS and provides feedback to the principal investigators and PBRN program directors about research progress.
A trans-PBRN SharePoint website has been developed and is being maintained by the Alabama-Florida PBRN. The website serves as common platform for information sharing among the PBRNs and the Monitoring Committee.
Roadmap Initiative: Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise
Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA)
As the NIDCR representative on the trans-NIH committee for this award, Dr. Bruce Pihlstrom, acting director of the Center for Clinical Research, encourages the participation of dental and oral health researchers in this initiative. Recently he was appointed chair of the Trans-NIH CTSA Subcommittee on Access and Shared Resources. The committee works to foster access to and sharing of CTSA resources among the CTSAs awarded by NIH.
In November, Dr. Pihlstrom attended the combined American Dental Education Association interim meeting and Dental Deans Annual Conference where he gave a presentation on the role of dental schools in the NIH Roadmap Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs).
American Dental Educators Association
Dr. Ruth Nowjack-Raymer, director of the Health Disparities Program, was an invited speaker at the Diversity and Access to Dental Careers Conference sponsored December 8 by the American Dental Educators Association. The topic of her presentation was “Strategies for Successful Community-Based Research.”
Technical Assistance Workshop for RFA
Dr. Maria Canto, director of the Health Promotion and Community Based Research Program, organized and presented at the technical assistance workshop for the RFA entitled “Health Promotion Research Directed to Improving the Oral Health of Women and Their Infants (R21).” The workshop was held on October 5.
She also was invited to give a presentation at the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” The title of her presentation was “Oral Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: A Statewide Approach.”
Final Report Issued from State of the Science Conference on Tobacco Use
The final report and research recommendations from the State-of-the-Science conference on “Tobacco Use: Prevention, Cessation, and Control” were published December 5 in the Annals of International Medicine. Dr. Patricia Bryant, director of the Basic and Applied Behavioral/Social Science Research Program, served on the planning committee for this conference.
Bisphenol A Workshop
Dr. Albert Kingman, head of the Biostatistics Core, was an organizer of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/NIDCR Bisphenol A (BPA) Workshop held in Chapel Hill, NC in November. The workshop examined the relevance of various models for assessing risk of BPA to human health.
DIVISION OF INTRAMURAL RESEARCH
Roberto Weigert, Ph.D., Appointed Tenure Track Investigator
On September 29, Dr. Roberto Weigert was appointed to a tenure track position as head of the Intracellular Membrane Trafficking Unit in NIDCR’s Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch. Dr. Weigert received his Ph.D. from the Open University London, UK, in 2000, where he addressed the mechanisms by which tubular structures are formed and released from the Golgi apparatus. He then joined the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 2001. Dr. Weigert has now launched a new program at the NIDCR aimed at addressing the molecular mechanisms regulating endocytic pathways and protein sorting and secretion in salivary glands. Dr. Weigert’s efforts are expected to have broad impact in understanding the physiology of salivary glands, leading to better strategies for the treatment of salivary gland dysfunctions and providing valuable information for the future development of artificial salivary glands.
Clinical Studies Update
Investigators in the Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct the first clinical gene therapy protocol with AdhAQP1. The title of the protocol is "Open-label, dose-escalation study evaluating the safety of a single administration of an adenoviral vector encoding human aquaporin-1 to one parotid salivary gland in individuals with irradiation-induced parotid salivary hypofunction." Dr. Bruce Baum is the principal investigator and Dr. Gabor Illei is the medically responsible investigator. NIDCR staff who serve as co-investigators include Drs. Jane Atkinson, Jaime Brahim, Jay Chiorini, Ana Cotrim, Nikolay Nikolov, Antonis Voutetakis and Changyu Zheng. Other collaborators include Drs. James Mitchell (NCI), Carter Van Waes (NIDCD), Jonathan Ship and Michael Turner (both of New York University).
Dr. Gabor Illei and colleagues have started a randomized, placebo-controlled, proof of concept study of Raptiva, a humanized anti-CD11a monoclonal antibody, in patients with Sjögren’s Syndrome.
2007 NIDCR Summer Dental Student Award
NIDCR recently advertised for its Summer Dental Student Award (SDSA) program, which gives talented dental students exposure to the latest advances in oral health research. Selected candidates will be assigned to mentors who conduct research in the students’ areas of interest. Participation in the program may result in presentation of research findings at a scientific meeting or co-authorship of scientific publications. The application deadline closed January 15, 2007. For additional information, contact Dr. Deborah Philp, program director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 594-6578.
Recruitment and Outreach Activities
Dr. Deborah Philp, head of the DIR Office of Education, attended the following meetings where she met with students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers and distributed research, training, and grant application materials:
• Society for Neuroscience, October 14-18 in Atlanta, GA
• Hispanic Dental Association, November 2-4 in Universal City, CA
• Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), October 26-29, Tampa, FL
• Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), November 8-11, Anaheim, CA
In addition, the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) Health Careers Opportunity Program conducted their first Dental Pre-Admission Workshop together with the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, December 1-2, in Mesa, AZ. The workshop provided a framework for undergraduate and graduate students in navigating the application process for dental school. The DIR Office of Education provided training and research opportunity materials at this workshop.
The Office of Education also hosted the 6th grade science class from the Malcolm X Elementary School in southeast Washington, D.C. The students met with Dr. Philp and learned about the NIDCR research mission, careers in research, and the importance of laboratory safety. They toured several laboratories and met with NIDCR staff including Dr. Michael Iadarola, a pain researcher; Ms. Ruth Yaskovich, a histologist, and Dr. Alfredo Molinolo, a pathologist. Dr. Demetrio Domingo organized a tour of the dental clinic where students spoke with Ms. Sherri Gollin, registered dental hygienist, Ms. Mercedes Garcia, dental technician, and Ms. Sara Council, a pre-IRTA currently conducting research in the Clinical Research Center.
Gavard J. and Gutkind J.S. VEGF controls endothelial cell permeability by promoting the beta-arrestin-dependent endocytosis of VE-cadherin. Nature Cell. Biol., 11:1223-1234, 2006.
Hansen A, Chen Y, Inman JM, Phan QN, Qi ZQ, Xiang CC, Palkovits M, Cherman N, Kuznetsov SA, Robey PG, Mezey E, Brownstein MJ. Sensitive and specific method for detecting G protein-coupled receptor mRNAs. Nat Methods. 2006 Nov 19; [Epub ahead of print]
Huang A.L., Chen X., Hoon M.A., Chandrashekar J., Guo W., Trankner D., Ryba N.J.P., Zuker C.S. The cells and logic for mammalian sour taste detection. Nature, 442 : 934-938, 2006.
Karadag A, Fisher LW. Bone sialoprotein enhances migration of bone marrow stromal cells through matrices by bridging MMP-2 to alpha(v)beta3-integrin. J Bone Miner Res. 2006 Oct;21(10):1627-36.
Larsen M, Wei C, Yamada KM. Cell and fibronectin dynamics during branching morphogenesis. J Cell Sci. 2006;119:3376-3384.
Lee, S.Y., Cisar, J.O., Bryant, J.L., Eckhaus, M.A., Sandberg, A.L. Resistance of Streptococcus gordonii to Polymorphonuclear Leukocyte Killing is a Potential Virulence Determinant of Infective Endocarditis. Infect. Immun. 74: 3148-3155, 2006.
Lodde BM, Baum BJ, Tak P, Illei G. Experience with experimental biological treatment and local gene therapy of Sjogren's syndrome: implications for exocrine pathogenesis and treatment (2006) Ann Rheum Dis. 65: 1406-13 [Epub 2006 Jul 31]
Mazzoni, A., Siraganian, R.P., Leifer, C.A. and Segal, D.M.: Dendritic cell modulation by mast cells controls the Th1/Th2 balance in responding T cells. J. Immunol. 177:3577-3581, 2006.
Moutsopoulos NM, Vazquez N, Greenwell-Wild T, Ecevit I, Horn J, Orenstein J, Wahl SM. Regulation of the tonsil cytokine milieu favors HIV susceptibility. J Leukoc Biol. 2006;80(5):1145-55.
Netzel-Arnett S., Currie B.M., Szabo R., Lin C.Y., Chen L.M., Chai K.X., Antalis T.M., Bugge T.H., List K. Evidence for a matriptase-prostasin proteolytic cascade regulating terminal epidermal differentiation. J. Biol. Chem. 281, 32941-32945, 2006.
Nikolov NP, Smith JA, Patronas NJ, Illei GG. Diagnosis and treatment of vasculitis of the central nervous system in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus. Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. (2006) 11:627-33;
B. Pani, E. Cornatzer, W. Cornatzer, D.M. Shin, M.R Pittelkow, A. Hovnanian, I.S. Ambudkar, and B.B Singh. Upregulation of TRPC1 following SERCA2 gene silencing promotes cell survival: A potential role for TRPC1 in Darier’s Disease. Mol. Biol of Cell, 2006, 17, 4446-58. Epub 2006 Aug 9.
Pikis, A., Hess, S., Arnold, I., Erni, B., and Thompson, J. Genetic requirements for growth of Escherichia coli K12 on methyl-alpha-D-glucopyranoside and the five alpha-D-glucosyl-D-fructose isomers of sucrose. J. Biol. Chem. 281: 17900-17908, 2006
Schmidt M, Chiorini JA. Gangliosides are essential for bovine adeno-associated virus entry. J Virol. 2006 Jun;80(11):5516-22.
Squarize C.H., Castilho R.M., Sriuranpong V., Pinto Jr. D.C., and Gutkind J.S. A molecular cross-talk between the NFkB and STAT3 signaling pathways in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Neoplasia, 8:733-746, 2006.
Sodhi A., Chaisuparat R., Hu J., Ramsdell A.K., Manning B.D., Sausville E.A., Sawai E.T., Molinolo A., Gutkind J.S., and Montaner S. The TSC2/mTOR pathway drives endothelial cell transformation induced by the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Associated Herpesvirus G Protein-Coupled Receptor. Cancer Cell, 10:133-143, 2006.
Tegeder I., Costigan M., Griffin R.S., Abele A.A., Belfer I., Schmidt H., Ehnert C., Scholz J., Wu T., Allchorne A., Atlas S.J., Sama S., Fillingim R., Diatchenko L., Maixner W., Geisslinger G., Max M.B., Woolf C.J. GTP cyclohydrolase and tetrahydrobiopterin regulate pain sensitivity and persistence. Nature Medicine, 12:1269-1277, 2006.
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NIDCR Public Inquiry Response and Publication Distribution
NIDCR’s Office of Communications and Health Education (OCHE) and its National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse responded to over 12,000 public inquiries and distributed 2.2 million publications in 2006. The largest numbers of inquiries came from dental health professionals, people with health concerns (and their friends and family members), health educators, and other public health program administrators. Significant numbers of inquiries also came from medical professionals, university faculty members, K-12 teachers, students, researchers, and the media.
Since the last meeting of the National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council (NADCRC), OCHE exhibited and distributed NIDCR patient and health professional education materials at the following meetings: Hispanic Dental Association annual meeting in Universal City, CA, November 2-4; American Public Health Association annual session in Boston, November 4-8; World Congress on Disabilities in Philadelphia, November 16-19; and the Greater New York Dental Meeting in New York City, November 26-29. Institute materials were also distributed in Chicago, New York, Miami, San Jose, Houston, and Los Angeles as part of the DHHS-sponsored 2006 Hispanic health tour “Celebra la Vida con Salud.”
OCHE also continues to actively promote the Institute’s health education materials in other ways. For example, NIDCR’s recently updated patient brochure on TMJ Disorders was featured on http://www.medlineplus.gov/, which receives more than 8 million unique visitors a month. The brochure is also available at http://www.womenshealth.gov/ and on the TMJ Association website, and an article on TMJ Disorders went to editors at 10,000 newspapers across the country via the North American Precis Syndicate.
New Fact Sheet Available on Finding Low-Cost Dental Care
Among the most frequent inquiries to NIDCR are requests for assistance in finding free or reduced-cost dental treatment. To better respond to these queries, OCHE has produced a new, easy-to-read fact sheet entitled, “Finding Low-Cost Dental Care.” Designed for low-income individuals and families, the one-page fact sheet provides information on sources of reduced-cost dental treatment at the community, state and Federal levels.
Outreach to American Indians and Alaska Natives
OCHE staff continue to serve on the Trans-NIH American Indian/Alaska Native Health Communications Workgroup. This workgroup was created in 2005 to help NIH health education and communications staff learn about the elements of effective and culturally appropriate outreach to and health promotion efforts with Native communities. In November 2006, the workgroup organized a seminar by Dr. Cynthia Lindquist--also known as Ta’sunka Wicahpi Win (Star Horse Woman), President of Cankdeska Cikana Community College, and member of the NIH Director’s Council of Public Representatives. The talk was titled “Cultural Competency Strategies for Indigenous Health: A Dakota Perspective." In December 2006, the workgroup met with Cathy Stueckemann, member of the Cherokee Nation and Director of Community Health Representatives Program at the Indian Health Service. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the possibility of disseminating NIH health education materials--including oral health information--to the approximately 1,600 trained lay health workers working in American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the nation.
News Releases and Science Updates
Since the last NADCRC meeting, OCHE staff produced four news releases: two reported on the genetics of cleft lip and palate, one described a new anti-microbial treatment that can be chemically programmed to seek out and kill a specific cavity-causing species of bacteria, and another described the results of the largest clinical trial to date to evaluate whether treating periodontal disease during pregnancy reduces a women’s risk of early delivery. Staff also produced more than 20 summaries of recent oral health research findings. See these and previous “Science News in Brief” write-ups.
NIDCR Patient Advocates Forum
Planning has begun for the 8th annual Patient Advocates Forum, which will be held April 23, 2007 on the NIH campus. The one-day meeting affords the opportunity to enhance communication between patient advocacy organizations and NIDCR and to bring the patient perspective to Institute planning and research.
NIDCR Deputy Director Dr. Dushanka Kleinman Retires
Dr. Dushanka Kleinman, deputy director at the NIDCR, retired from government service on January 1 to assume the position of associate dean for research and academic affairs, College of Health and Human Performance, University of Maryland-College Park. She will also have an appointment as professor in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department of the College, which is transitioning to a School of Public Health. Dr. Kleinman served in the government for 28 years -- 26 of those years at NIDCR. She joined the (then) NIDR in 1980, and during her early career at the Institute conducted research on oral mucosal tissue diseases and conditions, directed planning and evaluation activities, and managed the Institute’s epidemiology and oral disease prevention program. She was named deputy director in 1991 and also assumed the role of Institute acting director twice during transitions between directors. A rear admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Kleinman was named Chief Dental Officer, USPHS in 2001, the first woman to hold that position since it was established in 1923.
Dr. Isabel Garcia Named NIDCR Deputy Director
Isabel Garcia, D.D.S., M.P.H., has been selected to be the Institute’s deputy director. Dr. Garcia brings to the position 26 years’ experience in dental public health practice, research and administration at the local, state and national levels. She also brings a deep knowledge and appreciation of NIDCR and NIH research and issues, gained over 11 years working at the agency. For the past three years, as director of the NIDCR Office of Science Policy and Analysis, Dr. Garcia has served as the principal advisor to the NIDCR Director and other members of the executive staff on science policy, health policy and legislative matters. She has managed the Institute’s scientific planning, evaluation, coding and reporting activities. Dr. Garcia developed the current NIDCR Strategic Plan and the implementation plan for the Institute’s Strategic Plan for Eliminating Health Disparities. Since joining NIDCR in 1995 as a special assistant for science transfer, Dr. Garcia has served as the Institute's liaison to professional organizations, various government entities and Congress on oral health research issues. A Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, she is also the director of the dental public health residency program at NIDCR.
Dr. Alicia Dombroski Appointed Deputy Director of Division of Extramural Activities
Dr. Alicia Dombroski has been appointed deputy director of the NIDCR Division of Extramural Activities. Previously, she was a health scientist administrator in the Office of Biodefense Research Affairs, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where she played a leading role in planning and building NIAID’s biodefense program. She also was a scientific review administrator at the NIH Center for Scientific Review. Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Dombroski was a tenured associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
Dr. Henning Birkedal-Hansen is continuing to serve as acting director of the Division of Extramural Activities while day-to-day operation of the division is the responsibility of the new deputy director.
Dr. Donald DeNucci Joins Center for Clinical Research
Dr. Donald DeNucci, a Veterans Administration dentist, joined the Center for Clinical Research on October 1 and assumed programmatic responsibility for the Institute’s Practice-Based Research Networks. Dr. Denucci is a periodontist with many years of dental practice experience with the Army and Veterans Administration (VA). Most recently he was involved with the VA general practice residency program in Washington, D.C. His specific research interest is in clinical studies of chronic pain and he previously collaborated with NIDCR intramural researchers on pain studies.
Dr. Indu Ambudkar Appointed Chief, Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch
Dr. Indu Ambudkar was recently named chief of NIDCR’s Gene Therapy and Therapeutics Branch (GTTB). Prior to her appointment, she was acting chief of the branch. Dr. Ambudkar is known for her work on Ca2+ signaling and calcium entry mechanisms. Her research addresses the physiology of salivary glands and has led to the identification of calcium channels critical for the regulation of salivary gland fluid secretion. She and her colleagues at GTTB are working to understand the molecular basis of salivary gland function and to develop strategies for treating salivary hypofunction caused by conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome or radiation treatment for head and neck cancer. Dr. Ambudkar joined NIDCR in 1985 as a visiting associate and became a senior staff fellow in 1988. In 1993, she was tenured and appointed as chief of the Secretory Physiology Section in the branch she now heads.