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School leads NIDCR funding grants in 2017

Ann Arbor, Mich., March 2, 2018 -- The University of Michigan School of Dentistry received more research funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in fiscal 2017 than any dental institution in the country.

A newly-released compilation of NIDCR grants shows that the school received $16.3 million for a wide variety of research seeking to improve oral health. Among those funded were projects related to childhood caries prevention, head and neck cancer, and regenerating dental, oral and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury or congenital disorders.

U-M has long been one of the leading recipients of research funding from NIDCR, which is one of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. The School of Dentistry's 2017 total is nearly double the previous year and is also the most the school has received in a single fiscal year in at least the last 20 years. Records dating further back in school history weren't immediately available, but it's likely that last year's total is the most ever in one year, according to research office staff.

"Being a national leader in dental and craniofacial research takes not only dedicated scientists and clinicians doing complex and important research, but also a great support staff," said Dean Laurie McCauley. Research teams include lab assistants, faculty associates, graduate students, research fellows and administrators who assist in shepherding the science from the lab bench through the often complicated grant application process. "Ultimately, the goal is to translate research into scientific breakthroughs and innovative treatments that improve public health," McCauley said. "I'm proud of the entire school's commitment and leadership in meeting that challenge day in and day out."

Dr. Russell Taichman, associate dean for research, said topping the NIDCR grant list is "a great day for Michigan."  He, too, cited contributions from faculty, students and staff throughout the school. "It's important to point out that the NIDCR has very high standards for the types of projects they fund, so we also need to acknowledge the high quality of our research," Taichman said.

The following examples highlight the varied oral health research projects that School of Dentistry researchers are conducting with funding from the NIDCR in 2017:

• NIDCR research grants at the dental school last year were led by the largest grant in school history - $11.7 million for the Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center. (NIDCR funded only a portion of that dollar total in 2017 because it is a multi-year grant, as are all of the research projects listed here.) The resource center's mission is to find and support promising new regenerative medicine protocols that can restore damaged dental, oral and craniofacial tissues. Led by faculty members Drs. David Kohn and William Giannobile, the center brings together a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, clinicians, and regulatory and technology commercialization experts who evaluate projects submitted by researchers from academic, for-profit and non-profit organizations.

• Faculty member Dr. Margherita Fontana is the principal investigator for two teams of researchers from U-M and several other universities who will expand research into predicting caries risk in young children and assessing the efficacy of a new treatment. The first study, "Predicting Caries Risk in Underserved Children, from Toddlers to the School-Age Years, in Primary Healthcare Settings," expands the age range for assessing which children are at risk of developing caries. A related previous study focused on children up to age 4; the new grant will continue that research for children up to age 8. Fontana's second new study is a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of silver diamine fluoride in arresting caries in children. It will closely follow 1,060 children, ages 2-5, in preschool programs such as Head Start during a school year. The two grants total $18.3 million over several years.

• Faculty member Dr. Nisha D'Silva received the Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research award, or SOAR, from NIDCR for her continuing research into the molecular pathways that control the spread and recurrence of head and neck cancer. The ultimate goal is to improve the survival rates of patients with this particularly lethal form of cancer. Her findings may enable clinicians to identify patients who will best respond to existing treatments, and might lead to new treatment strategies. SOAR provides long-term support for NIDCR-funded investigators who are in mid-career and have outstanding records of research productivity, mentorship and professional service to the research community. D'Silva's grant provides $8.1 million over eight years.

• In 2017 the NIDCR also funded the continuation of a 40-year program known as the TEAM grant, for Tissue Engineering at Michigan. NIDCR funded $3 million over five years for the program, which provides an interdisciplinary research-intensive training environment for advanced degree candidates pursuing careers in the oral sciences, with a focus in the area of restoration of oral-craniofacial tissues.

The top five dental institutions receiving grants from the NIDCR in fiscal year 2017 were the University of Michigan; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Pittsburgh; and the Forsythe Institute, Cambridge, Mass. The complete list is available on the institute's web site.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation's leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.