NIDCR Requests Public Input on Development of Proposed Research Initiatives for FY 2017

Dear Collegues:

As part of the budget planning process for Fiscal Year 2017, NIDCR is identifying topical themes for development into research initiatives. During this process, we welcome input from our scientific advisory boards, the extramural community, interested organizations, and the public at large.


What are Initiatives?

Initiatives are a vehicle used by the Institutes and Centers to communicate future research goals to NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress. NIDCR begins the initiative development process each year by identifying broad research topic areas, or themes. We then develop a specific initiative proposal for each theme, taking into consideration the input received. Themes identified for FY 2017 are listed below.

Please remember that initiatives are not a complete picture of the Institute’s planned research portfolio for the year indicated, nor do they signal that themes highlighted the previous year have been abandoned. Several initiatives from last year have become formal funding opportunities and are posted on NIDCR’s website​. Others are still under development. Proposed FY 2017 Initiatives will be integrated into this larger landscape as they are considered for funding.


How can you provide input?

Please send your comments and suggestions related to these specific theme areas directly to us at​. If you want to suggest additional topic areas, or comment on the process for developing research initiatives, please send those suggestions to the same email address. Please submit all comments no later than Friday, September 4, 2015.


Thank you for your interest and input. I look forward to hearing from you.


Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Proposed NIDCR FY 2017 Research Themes (alphabetical by title)


Factors Underlying Differences in Female and Male Incidence Rates for Certain Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Diseases

The likelihood of developing a dental, oral, or craniofacial disease often varies according to sex of the individual.  For example, a woman is more likely than a man to be diagnosed with an orofacial pain condition such as temporomandibular joint disorder, the salivary gland tumor known as adenoid cystic carcinoma, or the oral manifestations of Sjögren’s syndrome. However, very little is known about the factors that cause such sex-related differences in incidence rates. This initiative encourages research to investigate possible genetic, hormonal, immune system, or environmental factors that may explain sex-related differences in the incidence of conditions that affect the dental, oral, and craniofacial region. Recent NIDCR investments in biorepositories and cohort studies can be leveraged to better understand sex-related differences in disease incidence. Advancing our understanding of the underlying reasons for sex-related differences in disease incidence is critical to identifying new therapeutic targets and developing precision medicine-based prevention, diagnosis, and treatment methods. 


Glycoprofiling HIV and HIV/AIDS-related Oral Pathogens that Persist During Antiretroviral Therapy

Recently, scientists have made tremendous advances in the characterization of the structure and abundance of glycans (sugars) on the surface of bacteria and viruses, but little is known about how microorganisms use glycans to infect an individual and cause disease. This initiative encourages research that uses glycoprofiling technologies to understand the role of glycans in HIV infection and other oral diseases and in the persistence of HIV/AIDS-related oral pathogens in patients who are undergoing antiretroviral therapy. This research could include the generation of electronic databases that catalog the glycoprofiles of HIV and HIV/AIDS-related opportunistic pathogens affecting the oral mucosa.  These datasets will serve as valuable resources for future identification of novel biomarkers and new therapeutic targets for HIV and oral opportunistic pathogens. 


Tailoring Dental Treatment Guidelines for Patients with Genetic Disorders and Other Conditions Known to Impact Oral Health

Certain genetic disorders such as ectodermal dysplasia and osteogenic imperfecta, many systemic diseases such as diabetes and Sjögren’s syndrome, and certain cancers are associated with collateral damage to oral tissues, and yet most current oral health treatment guidelines are based on studies of fairly healthy individuals. The goal of this initiative is to encourage research to understand the impact of a specific disorder, such as diabetes or osteogenic imperfecta, on oral health and to tailor guidelines for optimizing oral health in individuals with these specific disorders. Additional research in this area will help identify prognostic factors that predict treatment outcomes within specific population groups and will generate evidence for more precise dental treatment guidelines that are tailored to individuals. 


Three-dimensional Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Tissue Models to Mimic Human Diseases

Model systems are essential for understanding biology and developing effective approaches to prevent and treat disease. Traditionally, researchers have used live animals, such as rodents, or cells cultured on plastic surfaces, but rodent and other lab animal models often cannot precisely mimic human physiology and pathology, and standard cell cultures lack normal tissue architecture. To overcome these limitations, this initiative supports the development of three-dimensional (3D) human dental, oral, and craniofacial microtissue models that will provide the structure and organization that are lacking in standard cell culture systems and also allow for the use of human rather than lab animal tissues. Recent progress in understanding tissue development, technical progress in bioengineering, and ongoing efforts to develop 3D models for tissues and organs outside of the oral region make this initiative particularly timely. These new model systems will provide opportunities for addressing important questions of both health and disease in dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues and identifying new approaches to prevent and treat disease.


Wireless Biosensors in the Oral Cavity for Precise, Individualized Medical Care

Advances in wireless devices and nanotechnologies have enabled the development of compact, lightweight medical biosensors that provide real-time interactive communication between individuals and health care providers. In recent years, the field of wearable or implantable biosensor technologies has dramatically expanded; however, progress has been slowed by the fact that most regions of the body require an invasive procedure to place implantable devices. The oral cavity, on the other hand, is a region that offers both noninvasive device placement as well as easy access.  In addition, biosensors in the oral cavity are exposed to a broad range of salivary markers, including microorganisms, hormones, drugs, and dietary constituents. This initiative encourages the development of new wireless oral biosensors for noninvasive, dynamic monitoring of physiological processes associated with oral or systemic conditions. Such wireless biosensors offer potential for health monitoring and disease prevention through early detection and intervention. For example, wireless biosensors could help maintain the health of an individual by measuring the progression of caries or periodontal disease by analyzing changes in the oral microbiome or monitoring changes in diet or medication. 


Please note, when identifying themes for potential funding initiatives, NIDCR takes many factors into account. These factors include: scientific opportunity, alignment with the mission and goals of the Institute’s strategic plans, robustness of the existing portfolio in a particular theme area, both currently and in the year under consideration, and current budgetary climate.​

Last Reviewed on
February 2018