NIDCR Director Martha Somerman, DDS, PhD, Meets with Oral Health Disparities Consortium Grantees
On November 12, NIDCR Director Martha J. Somerman, DDS, PhD, met with the principal investigators from the data coordinating center and nine studies that make up the Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Research Consortium to Reduce Oral Health Disparities in Children.
“Having the opportunity to hear about the multilevel theoretical or conceptual framework underpinning each project and to ask questions about study design was of great value to me,” said Dr. Somerman. “With the variety of settings across the country being utilized and research questions being asked, researchers supported by NIDCR are poised to make substantial advances in reducing oral health disparities among U.S. children.”
In addition to NIDCR leadership and other staff, Nathaniel Stinson, Jr., MD, PhD, the director of the Division of Scientific Programs at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, took part in the meeting and discussions.
On January 22, 2016, the National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council will convene on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Eliseo Pérez-Stable, MD, the new director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, will be the featured presenter in a special session on Health Disparities. Those not able to attend in person may watch on NIH videocast.
Legislative Assistant James Neill Visits NIDCR
On November 10, James Neill—a new legislative assistant to U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, DDS (R-ID)—visited the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, to learn about NIH and the research supported by NIDCR. Mr. Neill met with NIDCR Director Martha Somerman, toured NIDCR research laboratories in Building 30, and visited the Dental Clinic at the NIH Clinical Center.
Representative Simpson, who was a dentist in Idaho for 22 years, is co-chair of the Oral Health Caucus, a member of the Doctors Caucus, and a member of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee on Appropriations.
NIDCR is one of several institutes taking part in an NIH funding opportunity called “Impact of Aging on Currently Employed Animal Models of Disease and Chronic Conditions: Demonstration Projects” (RFA-AG-16-020). The trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group developed this opportunity for phase innovation awards under the auspices of the National Institute on Aging.
“The goal of this program is to encourage investigators who are actively researching a disease in an established animal model to introduce aging into their studies,” said NIDCR Program Official Leslie A. Frieden, PhD, who is the NIDCR representative to the trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group.
Applications are due January 6, 2016, for projects that can demonstrate the importance of aging on animal models of dental, oral, and craniofacial conditions. Examples of possible topics for NIDCR cooperative agreements include the following:
- Natural history of pain: How chronic orofacial pain progresses in an aging system.
- Tissue regeneration: How strategies for regenerating dental, oral, and craniofacial tissue that show efficacy in younger animal models are altered in aging animals.
- Oral disease progression: Studies of disease-related, drug-induced, and radiation-induced changes in salivary gland function in aging models.
Since 2010, NIH’s Medical Education Partnership Initiative—which encourages junior faculty at African academic institutions to pursue research careers—has been transforming medical education across the sub-Saharan region by strengthening curricula, upgrading community-based training sites, and expanding communications technology and e-learning resources. This fall, NIH funded the next phase of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative. NIH will award up to $36.5 million over the next five years.
NIDCR is among the funding partners for the Initiative. Other partners are the Fogarty International Center; the NIH Common Fund; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; National Heart, Lung and, Blood Institute; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute of Nursing Research; National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; Office of AIDS Research; and Office of Research on Women's Health.
On November 5, Melissa W. Riddle, PhD, chief of NIDCR’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Branch (BSSRB), and Dawn A. Morales, PhD, a health specialist in BSSRB, met with potential grant applicants in Connecticut to provide technical assistance and to encourage investigators to apply for grants. Researchers from the University of Connecticut Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) and the School of Dental Medicine will collaborate on research projects in a new seed grant program, and these seed grants will prepare investigators to apply for NIDCR funding. The University of Connecticut will award seed grants to pairs of principal investigators—one CHIP and one School of Dental Medicine faculty member—that have projects that focus on behavior change related to oral health.
On November 18, NIDCR announced that Nadya Lumelsky, PhD, was selected to be the permanent chief of the Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch within the Division of Extramural Research. For the past year, she has been acting branch chief. Dr. Lumelsky joined NIDCR in 2006 as director of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Research Program. Before joining NIDCR, she was chief of the Section of Cellular Differentiation, Islets and Autoimmunity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Nadya earned her PhD from the State University of New York in Albany.
On October 21, Sunday Akintoye, BDS, DDS, MS, who is an associate professor of oral medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and an NIDCR-funded principal investigator, was selected as a Fulbright Scholar. From 2001 to 2003, Dr. Akintoye was a clinical fellow at NIDCR, and from 1998 to 2001, he was a research trainee in NIDCR’s intramural program.
Bruce A. Dye, DDS, MPH, a dental epidemiology officer in NIDCR's Office of Science Policy and Analysis, and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) evaluated the oral health impact of using the illicit drug methamphetamine. The study of 571 methamphetamine users found that nearly all had dental decay and most had lost teeth. Vivek Shetty, DDS, professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry, was the principal investigator, and the study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The paper was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Michael S. Lauer, MD, is the new Deputy Director for Extramural Research at NIH. Previously, Dr. Lauer was with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, where he was the Director of the Division of Prevention and Population Science from 2007 to 2009 and the Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences from 2009 to 2015. In 2012, Dr. Lauer received the Arthur S. Flemming Award for exceptional service in Federal Government.
The NIH Advisory Committee to the Director presented to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, a detailed design framework for building a national research participant group to expand our knowledge and practice of precision medicine. NIH plans to move quickly to build the infrastructure so that participants can begin enrolling in the cohort in 2016. NIH hopes to enroll at least 1 million Americans in the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) cohort within three to four years.
“Many factors have converged to make now the right time to begin this ambitious project,” said Dr. Collins. “Americans are engaging in improving their health and participating in health research more than ever before, electronic health records have been widely adopted, genomic analysis costs have dropped significantly, data science has become increasingly sophisticated and health technologies have become mobile. We have to seize this moment to invest in these promising scientific opportunities to help Americans live healthier lives.”
The PMI stakeholder briefing is available on NIH videocast (videocast.nih.gov). The briefing describes how NIH envisions implementation of the PMI cohort.
As part of the PMI Cohort Program website, NIH provides a list of all active funding opportunities for the cohort:
- Direct Volunteers Pilot Studies (OTA)
- Communication Support for the Precision Medicine Initiative® Research Programs at NIH (OTA)
- Biobank (U24)
- Coordinating Center (U2C)
- Healthcare Provider Organization Enrollment Centers (UG3/UH3)
- Participant Technologies Center (U24)
In partnership with London-based Wellcome Trust, NIH has launched a global science competition for new products or services to advance open science. The goal of the Open Science Prize is to support the development and prototyping of services, tools, and platforms that will make scientific research data freely available to advance discovery and spur innovation. The first phase of the competition is accepting applications through February 29, 2016. Up to six teams of technology experts and researchers will win $80,000 each to develop their ideas into a prototype or to advance an existing early-stage prototype. The prototype judged to have the greatest potential to further open science will receive $230,000.
“Research is a global, data-driven enterprise, and our ability to improve health increasingly hinges on our ability to manage and make sense of the enormous amounts of data being produced by scientific research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD.
The NIH Open Science Prize is part of the Big Data to Knowledge Initiative, launched in December 2013 as a trans-NIH program with funding from all 27 Institutes and Centers, as well as the NIH Common Fund.
At the Big Data to Knowledge—BD2K—2015 All Hands Grantee Meeting on November 12 and 13, researchers, educators, developers, and trainees assembled on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss research being conducted in the BD2K programmatic areas.
In October, three NIH grantees were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize. The 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to NIH grantees Paul Modrich, PhD, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina; and Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They share the award with Tomas Lindahl, PhD, of the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, for showing how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard genetic information.
The 2015 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to NIH grantee Angus Deaton, PhD, of Princeton University. His research has focused on measuring poverty among the elderly in the United States; the role of work in the decline of health at older ages; and the influence of income and inequality on health and mortality in high-, middle-, and low-income countries.
On October 1, NIH announced its second wave of grants to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, bringing the NIH investment to $85 million in fiscal year 2015. Sixty-seven new awards, totaling more than $38 million, will go to 131 investigators working at 125 institutions in the United States and eight other countries. For a list of the new grants and more information about the BRAIN Initiative, please visit http://www.braininitiative.nih.gov.
In 2015, NIH has awarded 13 Pioneer awards, 41 New Innovator awards, 8 Transformative Research awards, and 16 Early Independence awards to scientists proposing highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research, under the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supported by the NIH Common Fund. Awards support exceptional investigators pursuing bold research projects that span the broad mission of the NIH.
On October 6, NIH announced the selection of five researchers as new Lasker Clinical Research Scholars as part of a joint initiative with the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation to foster the next generation of great clinical scientists. A total of 10 scholars have been selected since 2012.
In fiscal year 2015, the NIH Common Fund awarded over $54 million to launch projects in four broad scientific areas: the Glycoscience Program, the 4D Nucleome Program, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Program, and the Science of Behavior Change Program. The Common Fund planning process identifies major challenges that impede progress in research as well as emerging areas of science that promise to change the way we think about health and disease or the way we approach prevention or treatment. Common Fund programs that emerge are goal-driven, with deliverables expected within a 5- to 10-year period.
On October 8, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences asked stakeholders for information to help guide the development of their five-year strategic plan. The deadline for comments is January 8, 2016.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reorganized its divisional structure to integrate its research portfolio, promote translational research, and increase efficiencies. The new structure will incorporate research on clinical neuroscience, brain development, and behavioral treatment development into existing and newly formed components of NIDA divisions.
The National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications sponsors training on the NIH campus for individuals interested in clinical or medical informatics. Every year about 50 interns and fellows from various career stages take part in the training program.
The Clinical Informatics Postdoctoral Research Fellowships component of the Medical Informatics Training Program introduces fellows to the field of informatics and encourages them to pursue careers in clinical informatics research. Fellows collaborate with NIH staff on clinical informatics research for at least one year, with a chance of renewal for a total of 3 years. Candidates should have research or clinical experience, and they must have a DDS (or equivalent), MD, or a doctoral degree in medical informatics, information science, computer science, engineering, applied mathematics, or similar discipline. Applications are due on January 15, 2016.
The Medical Informatics Training Program also offers 4- to 8-week training sessions for dental school students (applications due March 1) and 8-week rotations for graduate students and postdoctoral candidates who have NLM training grants (applications due April 15).
NIDCR intramural neuroscientist Nicholas J.P. Ryba, PhD, and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute have demonstrated that stimulating defined regions of the brain’s cortex can drive taste behavioral responses in the absence of bitter or sweet substances in the oral cavity.