Winter 2021

NIDCR News
NIDCR Major Announcement: Save the Date!
Save the Date calendar image

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, December 21, at 1pm for a major webcast announcement from NIDCR. Look for log-in instructions, coming in a separate NIDCR email next week.

Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, DDS, PhD

NIDCR welcomed Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, DDS, PhD, as the institute’s new deputy director on December 6. Prior to joining NIDCR, Webster-Cyriaque served as a faculty member for 21 years at the University of North Carolina (UNC) schools of dentistry and medicine, where she practiced dentistry and studied the role of viruses like HIV and herpes simplex virus in oral lesions and cancers. She received her bachelor’s and DDS degrees from the University at Buffalo and her doctorate from UNC.

Renee W. Joskow, DDS, MPH, FAGD

Capt. Renee Joskow, DDS, MPH, a dentist and medical epidemiologist, joined NIH as the senior advisor to the NIDCR director on October 24. She shared elements of her professional journey and discussed her new role in a Q&A format. Prior to NIDCR, Joskow served as the chief dental officer at the Health Resources and Services Administration, where she led oral health initiatives and collaborated with stakeholders and colleagues. She earned her DDS and master’s in public health from Columbia University and serves in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Nobel Prize

David Julius, PhD, of UC San Francisco, and Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, of Scripps Research Institute, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on October 4 for their discoveries of thermal and mechanical receptors. The discoveries provided a foundation for understanding pain and proprioception, offering new opportunities to identify therapeutic targets. Both scientists received NIDCR funding in support of their winning research.

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NIH/HHS News
Francis Collins, MD, PhD

After 12 years of service, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, will step down as the director of NIH by the end of 2021. During his tenure under three US presidents, Dr. Collins established bold initiatives to tackle some of the most pressing health issues facing the nation, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases, and the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also bolstered policies and activities to address workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Collins will continue to lead his research laboratory at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute.

NIH, FDA Join Private Partners to Increase Gene Therapies for Rare Diseases

NIH and FDA have partnered with 10 pharmaceutical companies and five non-profit organizations to launch the Bespoke Gene Therapy Consortium (BGTC), part of the NIH Accelerating Medicines Partnership program. BGTC aims to optimize and streamline the gene therapy development process to help fill the unmet medical needs of the 25-30 million Americans with rare diseases. NIDCR is one of nine NIH institutes and centers participating in the program.

NIH Builds Network to Study Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

To support large-scale studies on the long-term effects of COVID-19, NIH awarded nearly $470 million to build a national study population of tens of thousands of diverse research volunteers. The award from the NIH REsearching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative will support more than 100 researchers at more than 30 institutions.

NIH to Catalyze Data Science Research in Africa

NIH is investing about $74.5 million over five years to advance data science, catalyze innovation, and spur health discoveries across Africa. The Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) program will establish a data science research and training network across the continent. The 19 awards issued under DS-I Africa were supported in part by NIDCR and other NIH institutes, centers, and offices. The program aims to use data science to develop solutions to the continent’s most pressing public health problems.

Research Awards to Advance Health Equity

Disadvantaged populations experience higher rates of certain diseases and more negative health outcomes. To support bold new research ideas that focus on interventions to address these issues, NIH has awarded 11 grants through the Common Fund’s Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative. The awards, totaling $58 million over five years, will be administered by NIDCR on behalf of NIH.

NIH Program To Map Rare, Non-Dividing Cells

To study senescent cells, a type of rare and non-dividing cells that plays both positive and negative roles in biological processes, NIH’s Common Fund launched the Cellular Senescence Network program. The program aims to identify and characterize senescent cells across the body, in various states of human health, and across the lifespan. A deeper understanding of senescent cells could lead to therapies that encourage the cells’ beneficial effects while suppressing tissue-damaging effects.

Vaping Levels Off Among College-Aged Adults

Among adults ages 19 to 22, the use of vaped marijuana and vaped nicotine leveled off in 2020 after sharp yearly increases since 2017, according to survey results from the Monitoring the Future study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana use in general reached a historic high, but cigarette smoking continued to drop, the researchers found.

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Science Advances
New Mechanism May Influence Infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Scientists in the lab of NIDCR’s Kelly Ten Hagen, PhD, have found an enzyme process in cells that may limit the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 by adding a bulky sugar molecule that reduces the activation of the spike protein. Mutations in the alpha and delta variants seem to overcome this effect, potentially boosting the virus’s ability to spread. The knowledge could inform future efforts to develop new interventions.

Developing a Smart Mask to Surveil Coronavirus

NIDCR-funded researchers demonstrated the feasibility of developing a color-changing “smart” mask to detect viruses like SARS-CoV-2 in wearers’ saliva. The masks could one day be used to monitor infection and prevent outbreaks, especially in group settings like nursing homes, rehab facilities, schools, and assembly lines. The project is part of NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Radical (RADx-rad) initiative.

Person with itchy skin

A research team led by NIDCR scientist Mark Hoon, PhD, identified an immune substance called oncostatin M (OSM) that sensitizes and enhances the activity of itch-sensing neurons. In a mouse model of chronic itch, scratching was virtually eliminated by blocking OSM activity, suggesting a therapeutic strategy for persistent itchy skin conditions like psoriasis.

Robotic Massage Helps Regenerate Muscles in Mice

In a recent study funded in part by NIDCR, researchers found that massage therapy performed by a robotic device helped heal severely injured muscles in mice by clearing immune cells from the tissue. The finding adds to evidence that mechanical therapies can aid tissue regeneration.

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Funding Opportunities & Related Notices
Title Opportunity number Extramural Scientific Topics Release Date Expiration Date
PAR-22-073
Small Business (SBIR/STTR)
PAR-21-343
Clinical Research & Clinical Trials
Parent Announcements & Trans-NIH Announcements
PAR-21-342
Clinical Research & Clinical Trials
RFA-RM-22-006
Common Fund Programs
Gene Discovery, Genomics & Multi-Omics Analysis
RFA-AT-22-003
Orofacial Pain, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder & Neurobiology
PAR-21-347
Career Development
Training & Fellowships
RFA-NS-21-025
Career Development
Training & Fellowships
RFA-NS-22-002
Oral Health Disparities & Inequities
Orofacial Pain, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder & Neurobiology
Women's Health
RFA-RM-21-024
Common Fund Programs
PAR-21-350
Behavioral & Social Science
PAR-21-349
Behavioral & Social Science
RFA-OD-21-007
Behavioral & Social Science
Craniofacial & Dental Development, Disorders
Craniofacial Skeletal Biology & Pathobiology
Epidemiology
PA-21-345
Small Business (SBIR/STTR)
PAR-21-317
Behavioral & Social Science
Clinical Research & Clinical Trials
Dissemination & Implementation Science
PAR-21-315
Orofacial Pain, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder & Neurobiology
PAR-21-271
Career Development
Training & Fellowships
PAR-21-272
Career Development
Training & Fellowships
PAR-21-273
Career Development
Training & Fellowships
NOT-DE-21-015
Oral Microbiology & Metagenomics
NOT-DE-21-020
Parent Announcements & Trans-NIH Announcements
NOT-HD-21-047
NOT-NS-22-017
Small Business (SBIR/STTR)
NOT-RM-22-003
Common Fund Programs
Craniofacial & Dental Development, Disorders
Gene Discovery, Genomics & Multi-Omics Analysis
NOT-DE-21-016
Oral Health Disparities & Inequities
NOT-DE-21-014
Behavioral & Social Science
Clinical Research & Clinical Trials
NOT-DE-21-012
Small Business (SBIR/STTR)
Technology Development
NOT-MH-21-330
Behavioral & Social Science
Dissemination & Implementation Science
Women's Health
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Last Reviewed on
November 2021