The Center for Skeletal and Craniofacial Biology has been established at NYUCD with funding from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. The center is led by Dr. Nicola Partridge, an authority on molecular endocrinology and bone and mineral research, who joined NYUCD in fall 2009.
According to Dr. Partridge, the mission of the center is to raise the tempo of research into diseases affecting craniofacial development and bone—including cleft palate and bone loss related to osteoporosis, kidney failure, cancer metastasis, and periodontal disease. The center's research is expected to lead to new knowledge about and new and improved treatments for these and other conditions, and to be a magnet attracting outside academics and postdoctoral fellows to undertake research using the center's resources.
The center's goals are to recruit new faculty in craniofacial bone biology, as well as collaborators from other NYU schools, to perform such research and synergize their activities, publish high-impact papers, submit NIH instrumentation grants for the center, oversee the use of core facilities, increase the funding of center members, submit NIH PPG (program project grants) and center applications, and engage members in clinical trials and obtain patents and patent income.
In 2010, when the NIH announced a new, more competitive review process for applications, the message to researchers across the country was that if you want an NIH grant, you must prove to us that your research will exert a sustained and powerful influence in your field.
"The NIH used to evaluate research proposals on the basis of how well a study was designed and whether previously published data supported the need for additional research," explained Dr. Partridge. "The changes that were announced in 2010 put the burden on scientists to show how likely it is that their research will have a major scientific impact. In addition, the NIH reduced the share of funding for basic science, allocated more money to clinical and translational studies, and put greater emphasis on funding multidisciplinary studies."
Maintaining funding levels for bone research—and eventually expanding them—has long been a priority for NYUCD, both in terms of research and discovery and grant income. Dr. Partridge, whose research has been continuously funded by the NIH for over 20 years, lost no time in preparing NYUCD for the coming changes in funding, launching monthly meetings that brought together researchers from half a dozen departments to present updates, share ideas for strengthening grant applications, and explore the kinds of multidisciplinary collaborations that would appeal to NIH reviewers.
Dr. Partridge also stepped up recruiting, hiring five new researchers for the basic science faculty—a move that brought the total number of NYUCD faculty involved in craniofacial and bone research at the start of the 2011–12 academic year to 16 in six departments, with over $16 million in combined grants. The addition of the new basic science faculty provided the foundation for expanded research activities and for the establishment of a Center for Skeletal and Craniofacial Biology.
Specific center objectives include:
- facilitating access to research facilities at NYUCD, thus enabling faculty members throughout the College to utilize resources such as the hard tissue imaging laboratory in the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics, and the flow cytometry core laboratory in the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology.
- developing new research facilities, such as a bone histology unit in the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology.
- applying for NIH funding to acquire new research instruments, such as a microCT scanner that will be managed by the Department of Orthodontics and shared by faculty from throughout NYUCD as well as from the NYU Langone Medical Center.
- identifying promising new areas for research and developing and critically reviewing new grant proposals to fund studies in these areas. Key to this effort will be the use of mock study sections that will meet with principal investigators prior to a grant submission to appraise their proposal and provide recommendations for strengthening it. The mock study sections will be staffed by faculty members acting as peer review experts who serve on real-world study sections that critically evaluate grant applications on behalf of the NIH.
- encouraging researchers to meet to discuss findings from pilot studies and to explore new alliances leading to the expansion of those studies into larger, more sophisticated multiyear grants involving several faculty members. The resulting increase in collaborative research is expected to lead to more high-quality, peer-reviewed faculty publications.
- sponsoring clinical trials leading to new treatments and patents.
- recruiting additional full-time faculty, as well as visiting scholars, researchers on sabbatical, and postdoctoral students.
Dr. Jean-Pierre Saint-Jeannet, formerly a professor of developmental biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, joined the center in January 2012 as a professor of basic science and craniofacial biology. Dr. Saint-Jeannet, who holds an MS degree in neuroscience and a PhD in developmental neurobiology from Université Paul Sabatier in France, brings to NYUCD a four-year, $2 million NIH grant to research proteins regulating embryonic development in frog oocytes, as well as mutations that may presage the development of craniofacial defects.
Dr. Saint-Jeannet's research on neural crest cells that develop into facial bone, spinal and autonomic ganglia, and connective tissue around the brain and spinal cord will complement the work of Dr. Juhee Jeong, an assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology, who studies proteins that regulate early-stage development in mouse models. The two researchers are expected to develop a partnership leading to collaborative studies that provide a broader picture of early-stage craniofacial development.
The Center for Skeletal and Craniofacial Biology also includes Dr. Racquel Z. LeGeros, Linkow Professor of Implant Dentistry and professor and associate chair of the Department of Biomaterials and Biomimetics; Dr. Timothy Bromage, professor of biomaterials and biomimetics and of basic science and craniofacial biology; Dr. Cristina Teixeira, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Orthodontics; Dr. John Evans, professor of basic science and craniofacial biology; Dr. Amr M. Moursi, associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry; Dr. Mani Alikhani, assistant professor of orthodontics; Dr. John Ricci, associate professor of biomaterials and biomimetics; Dr. Paulo Coelho, assistant professor of biomaterials and biomimetics; Dr. Zoya Kurago, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology and medicine; Dr. Seiichi Yamano, assistant professor of prosthodontics; Dr. Shoshana Yakar, associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology; Dr. Despina Sitara, assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology; Dr. Xin Li, assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology; and Dr. Rodrigo Viecilli, assistant professor of orthodontics.
The following NYU School of Medicine faculty are collaborating with the center: Dr. Bruce Cronstein, Esserman Professor of Medicine and professor of pathology and pharmacology; Dr. Thorsten Kirsch, professor of orthopaedic surgery, cell biology, and pharmacology, vice chair for research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases; Dr. Stephen Honig, clinical associate professor of medicine and director of the Osteoporosis Center at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases; and Dr. Ann Danoff, associate professor and director of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, NYU School of Medicine.
"The intellectual richness and scholarly diversity that these individuals bring to the center allow us to look forward to a period of remarkable research advances in the area of craniofacial bone biology," says Dr. Partridge.