Craniofacial Research Symposium Speakers

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Martha Somerman, DDS, PhD

Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Somerman is the NIDCR director and chief of the Laboratory of Oral Connective Tissue Biology at the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Prior to becoming NIDCR’s director, Dr. Somerman was dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry, a position she held from 2002-2011. Before joining the University of Washington, she was on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, from 1991-2002, and the University of Maryland from 1984-1990. An internationally known researcher and educator, her research has focused on defining the key regulators controlling development, maintenance, and regeneration of dental-oral-craniofacial tissues. Dr. Somerman holds a DDS from New York University, a certificate in periodontology from Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, NY, and a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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Harold Slavkin, DDS

Professor and Dean Emeritus, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California
Former NIDCR Director (1995-2000)

Dr. Slavkin is professor and dean emeritus at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, University of Southern California (USC). He previously served as dean of the USC dental school from 2000-2008. From 1995-2000 he was director of (then) NIDR, where he spearheaded the effort to rename NIDR to the “National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research,” to more accurately reflect the breadth of the Institute’s research portfolio. NIDR was renamed NIDCR in 1998, the Institute’s 50th anniversary year. During Dr. Slavkin’s tenure, the Institute also became the lead agency for the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on oral health, Oral Health in America. Dr. Slavkin’s interests include health care policy, craniofacial genetics and developmental biology, biomaterials, tissue engineering and regeneration, human and microbial genomics, and precision dentistry and medicine. He has published numerous scientific papers and three books: Craniofacial Developmental Biology, The Birth of a Discipline: Craniofacial Biology, and a novel, Atlanta. He received his DDS from USC and is the recipient of 10 honorary degrees.

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Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD

Principal Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health
Former NIDCR Director (2000-2010)

Dr. Tabak is the principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the deputy ethics counselor of the Agency. He previously served as the acting principal deputy director of NIH (2009), and prior to that as NIDCR Director from 2000-2010. Dr. Tabak has provided leadership for numerous trans-NIH activities, including the NIH Roadmap effort to support team science; the NIH Director’s initiative to enhance peer review; NIH’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act implementation; the NIH initiative to enhance rigor and reproducibility in research; and the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan. He is co-chair of the Next Generation Researcher’s initiative and the High Risk High Reward Research working group. Dr. Tabak’s major research focus has been on the structure, biosynthesis, and function of glycoproteins, and he continues to work in this area, maintaining a research laboratory in the NIH intramural program. Dr. Tabak received his DDS from Columbia University and both a PhD and certificate of proficiency in endodontics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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Yang Chai, DDS, PhD

Professor and the George and MaryLou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology
University of Southern California

Dr. Yang Chai is a professor and the George and MaryLou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology at the University of Southern California (USC). He is the director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology and associate dean of research at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC. Dr. Chai is noted for his research on the molecular regulation of cranial neural crest cells during craniofacial development and malformations. His laboratory has developed multiple genetically engineered mouse models to investigate how craniofacial organs such as the tooth, palate, mandible, maxilla, tongue and calvaria are formed, and how tissue-tissue interactions control patterning and morphogenesis. Dr. Chai’s work has focused on linking animal models with human birth defects to gain a better understanding of the disease mechanism and provide innovative treatments for patients. Dr. Chai earned a DMD degree from Peking University School of Stomatology and a DDS and PhD in craniofacial biology from USC.

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Noriaki Ono, DDS, PhD

Assistant Professor
University of Michigan School of Dentistry

Dr. Noriaki Ono is an orthodontist-scientist and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. His laboratory is focused on the fundamental biology of stem cells that play important roles in skeletal and craniofacial development, diseases, and regeneration. He completed his DDS, PhD, and orthodontic training at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan. He subsequently completed his research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Henry Kronenberg. His research program has been supported by NIDCR through K99, R00, and R01 mechanisms. He is currently a diplomate of the Japanese Board of Orthodontics. In 2018, his work on skeletal stem cells in growth plates was published in Nature.

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Maria Morasso, PhD

Senior Investigator
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIH

Dr. Morasso is a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Skin Biology at the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Her research focuses on understanding the roles of homeobox transcriptional regulators in skin differentiation and barrier formation, and how barrier disruption triggers inflammatory responses in the skin. Another emphasis has been the study of regulatory pathways controlling the development of ectodermal appendages (hair and tooth) and the molecular mechanisms underlying Ectodermal Dysplasias. Recent work has centered on aspects of wound healing. Her research aims to provide insights into the mechanisms that mediate ideal wound healing and offer a biological blueprint for developing novel therapeutic options to treat non-healing wounds. Dr. Morasso holds a PhD in biochemistry from the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas, Venezuela.

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Chia Soo, MD, FACS

Professor and Vice Chair for Research
David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Soo is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, academician, and professor and vice chair for research in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles. Clinically, her interest is on acute critical burn care, reconstructive burn surgery, and chronic wound healing. She is also a research director of UCLA Operation Mend, a groundbreaking partnership to help heal the wounds of our Nation’s warfighters. Her multidisciplinary research focuses on translating innate biological mechanisms for tissue formation and repair into clinical therapeutics to better restore function to tissues such as skin, bone, and muscle. She is an expert on complex large and small animal models and has extensive FDA regulatory and biotech industry experience. One candidate biologic drug discovered in her laboratory is currently undergoing Phase1/2 clinical trials for scar reduction. She has had research support from multiple entities including NIH, the Center for Advancement of Science in Space/NASA, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Department of Defense, University of California Discovery, and the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation.

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Janice Lee, MD, DDS, MS

Clinical Director and Chief, Craniofacial Anomalies and Regeneration Section
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH

Dr. Lee is the NIDCR clinical director and chief of the Institute’s Craniofacial Anomalies and Regeneration Section. A board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, her clinical and translational research program is exploring the natural history and genetic etiology of craniofacial anomalies and growth abnormalities. Her research interests include bone regeneration and stem cell biology, craniofacial congenital anomalies, fibrous dysplasia, and McCune-Albright syndrome. Prior to joining NIDCR, Dr. Lee was professor of clinical oral and maxillofacial surgery and departmental vice chair in the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lee has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and several book chapters. She earned a DDS and an MS from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry, and an MD from Harvard Medical School. She also completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University and a two-year research fellowship in NIDCR’s Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch.

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Matthew Hoffman, BDS, PhD

Scientific Director and Senior Investigator, Matrix & Morphogenesis Section
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH

Dr. Hoffman is the NIDCR Scientific Director and a senior investigator in the Institute’s Matrix & Morphogenesis Section. He previously served as the NIDCR Deputy Scientific Director (2016-2018). Dr. Hoffman began postdoctoral training at NIH studying extracellular matrix and cell differentiation and established his lab at NIDCR in 2004. Dr. Hoffman’s laboratory studies salivary gland development by investigating how stem/progenitor cells are directed along a series of cell fate decisions during organogenesis, aiming to identify targets for gene- and cell-based regenerative therapies. Dr. Hoffman received his BDS from the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry in New Zealand and worked clinically for two years for the Wellington Hospital Board, while doing part-time microbiology research at the Medical Research Council. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States and completed a PhD in microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester, NY, in 1994.

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Mary ("Cindy") Farach-Carson, PhD

Professor, Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences and Director, Clinical and Translational Research
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Dentistry

Dr. Farach-Carson is professor, diagnostic and biomedical sciences and director, clinical and translational research, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Dentistry; and strategic advisor for basic and clinical research, Texas Medical Center. Her laboratory focuses on tissue engineering, extracellular matrix and cancer biology. She is a pioneer in the use of complex 3D systems for cell and microtissue culture of both normal and cancerous tissues. Dr. Farach-Carson and her team are working on building a salivary gland that could ultimately help patients who suffer from xerostomia due to hyposalivation from radiation for head/neck cancer. She is the author of over 200 publications and frequently serves as a reviewer for both grant applications and journal articles. She received her PhD in biochemistry from the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and was a postdoc in biochemistry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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Hongjiao Ouyang, DDS, PhD, DMD

Tenured Associate Professor, College of Dentistry, Texas A&M University, and Affiliated Faculty Member, Charles and Jane Pak Center of Mineral Metabolism and Clinical Research, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Ouyang is an endodontist and a tenured associate professor in the Department of Endodontics, College of Dentistry, Texas A&M University, and an affiliated faculty member of the Charles and Jane Pak Center of Mineral Metabolism and Clinical Research, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Ouyang’s research focuses on elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development, maintenance, and diseases of mineralized tissues. Dr. Ouyang obtained her DDS at West China University of Medical Sciences (now Sichuan University) in 1993. In 2000, she received her PhD in oral health sciences, and her clinical certificate from the graduate endodontics program, at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. She earned her DMD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine in 2008.

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Niki Moutsopoulos, DDS, PhD

Clinical Investigator, Oral Immunity and Infection Unit
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH

Dr. Moutsopoulos is a tenure track clinical investigator in NIDCR’s Oral Immunity and Infection Unit. She has been building a clinical and translational research program focused on basic understanding of oral immunity and susceptibility to the common human inflammatory disease periodontitis through the study of patients with monogenic immune defects. Her lab aims to uncover the mechanisms involved in the susceptibility and pathogenesis of periodontitis, not only to understand the disease itself, but to provide insights into shared mechanisms among inflammatory diseases. Dr. Moutsopoulos received a DDS degree from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, completed her specialization in periodontology at the University of Maryland, and obtained a PhD in immunology while working in the laboratory of Dr. Sharon Wahl at NIDCR. She has also worked as a clinical fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Holland at the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Last Reviewed
March 2019

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