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Feng named IADR Distinguished Scientist

Dr. FengOn March 16, the International Association for Dental Research recognized Dr. Jian “Jerry” Q. Feng as the recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Scientist Award for Pulp Biology and Regeneration.

Feng, professor of biomedical sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, received a commemorative plaque and cash prize of $3,500 during the opening ceremony of the IADR’s 89th General Session and Exhibition in San Diego.

Feng’s expertise and background include bone and tooth research in the mineralization and pulp biology fields using animal models (loss of function, gain of function and mutation), tissue engineering and in vitro techniques. One of his major contributions is that deletions of the Dmp1 gene or mutations of human DMP1 not only led to defects of bone and dentin, but also changed phosphate homeostasis by releasing more FGF23 (a growth factor target in kidneys) from osteocytes. This suggests that these cells serve an endocrinal function in regulating systemic phosphate homeostasis during pathological conditions.

Publication of that work in various articles has been cited more than 1,200 times. One reviewer commented that Feng is “thinking beyond the dogma.”

Funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1996, Feng’s lab recently identified a molecule, ALK3 (also named BMPR1A), that may determine the cell fate of tooth cells. Deletion of this molecule led to a switch from a tooth program to a bone program in mice. Studies of this grant proposal may change the teaching and treatment of patients in the future based on a novel finding: this receptor is critical for TGFβ but may not be for BMP2. This discovery greatly challenges the current dogma on how BMP works in cell signaling.

"I was very happy to learn that Dr. Feng was selected as this year's award winner,” says Dr. Rena D’Souza, professor and chair of biomedical sciences. “He is truly at the forefront of research on mineralized tissues, an important area in the study of craniofacial development.
 
“Dr. Feng works extremely hard, and the result of his dedication is evident: he and his lab have made important discoveries that impact our understanding of bone development,” D’Souza continues. “This award recognizes a person who has already made significant contributions to the field; it is exciting to anticipate the wealth of information to be produced by Dr. Feng and his lab in the future."

Feng is the co-author of five book chapters and more than 100 articles and reviews appearing in various journals and publications during the last five years. In 2010 alone, his lab published 16 articles. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Dental Research and the Journal of International Biological Sciences. He also serves on review panels for NIH/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Feng’s contributions in biomedical research have led to awards and recognition from numerous and diverse scientific societies. His trainees have won prestigious awards as well, and many have become faculty members in the United States and five countries.

Feng is vice president of the IADR/American Association for Dental Research Mineralized Group. As a member, he has organized numerous symposiums and scientific programs for the group. He is senate caucus leader of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and vice chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Since 2000, he has served on the board of the International Chinese Hard Tissues Society.

Feng was trained as a physician in China and earned his doctorate from the University of Connecticut. His postdoctoral fellowship training occurred at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio.