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Biomedical sciences lands 'BEST' grant

BEST Grant

A nearly $1.4 million grant to Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry will supplement research efforts that could help transform laboratory findings into improved patient care. This grant for “translational research,” as it is often called, is being funded by the federal economic stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is awarded through the National Institutes of Health.

HSC-BCD was one of only seven dental and craniofacial research institutions in the nation to be awarded this grant funding.

Employing a special P30 grant created from the stimulus package, the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research awarded the college $1,375,946 over a two-year period to develop its project named “B-BEST,” Baylor’s Program in Bioengineering Sciences and Translational Research. P30 grants are designed to support “biomedical research core centers,” which are groups of multidisciplinary researchers focused on areas where important breakthroughs in health care are considered likely.

B-BEST will enable the college’s biomedical sciences department to hire two graduate bioengineers who have extensive training in the regeneration of mineralized and soft tissues of the craniofacial complex. The researchers will be hired as P30 faculty members in tenure-track positions and will be cross-appointed within HSC-BCD in either its periodontics or oral surgery departments. They also will be faculty in the biomedical engineering graduate program at the University of Texas at Arlington.

HSC-BCD’s network of well-established basic, translational and clinical researchers will collaborate with these new faculty members to research new technologies for improved craniofacial and oral health care, including the development of biomimetic and nanostructured scaffolds, use of stem cells and the delivery of bioactive factors and drugs for healing craniofacial diseases and traumatic injuries.

The long-term objective of the P30 project is to enhance the college’s translational research capacity for the development of innovative oral health care treatments. The project will increase collaboration opportunities with biomedical engineering research at UT Arlington and Southern Methodist University, and with clinical and translational science research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. It also will enhance training opportunities for predoctoral students and dentist-scientist graduates who are interested in bioengineering, translational and patient-oriented research and academic careers.

B-BEST will be directed by principal investigator Dr. Rena D'Souza, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, and by co-investigators Dr. Paul Dechow, professor in biomedical sciences, and Dr. Larry Bellinger, associate dean of research and graduate studies. A team to advise the project’s recruitment and development will be composed of leaders within the field of tissue engineering including Drs. Pranesh Aswath from UT Arlington, Paul Krebsbach from the University of Michigan, Antonios Mikos from Rice University and David Mooney from Harvard University.

B-BEST is the latest of several major NIH grants awarded to HSC-BCD through the Department of Biomedical Sciences. Previous grants include the U24, which bolstered the college’s biomedical sciences research infrastructure with added personnel and equipment, the T32, which supports selected students who are trained in both clinical knowledge and research, and the R25, which funds a broad-based training effort for dental students to critically assess research that can impact the treatment choices they eventually will make as practicing dentists.

The project’s leaders say this grant, along with six other ARRA-funded projects, marks a turning point for biomedical research at HSC-BCD. Within the oral health research community, the successful funding of the P30 grant puts the college at the forefront of translational research. For patients, the research supported by B-BEST could lead to innovations in dental and craniofacial treatments for years to come.