A new $11.7 million center at the University of Michigan aims to advance regenerative medicine to restore patients’ lost dental, facial and skull tissue. The Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Resource Center is funded by the National Institutes of Health. It is led by the U-M School of Dentistry, and Michigan Engineering researchers are involved.
The center will bring together scientists, engineers and clinicians to investigate new ways to restore dental, oral and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury or congenital disorders. The goal is to spur new collaborations and deploy resources more effectively across disciplines.
The U-M researchers will collaborate with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Harvard University and private companies. The three universities have committed financial support in addition to the $11.7 million NIH award for a project total of about $14 million.
The resource center will help translate new discoveries into clinical tools more quickly by matching projects with engineering, biological, manufacturing, commercial and regulatory expertise. The researchers expect to focus on material-based, cell-based and drug-based innovations.
Some of the current material-based research in the craniofacial area, for example, uses tiny polymer-based scaffolds that are implanted to promote the growth of damaged bone or periodontal tissue that supports teeth or tooth replacement dental implants.
Lonnie Shea, the William and Valerie Hall Chair of the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering and a member of the center’s Technology Advisory Board, says U-M is uniquely positioned to lead the center, as the only university in the country with Top 10-ranked dental, medical and engineering schools on the same contiguous campus.
“The Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Resource Center is the culmination of a vision established many years ago within dentistry at U-M to engage clinicians, engineers and biologists toward the development of new therapies,” Shea said. “This resource center has the opportunity to support the development of next generation therapies for dental, oral and craniofacial tissues. It may also provide a model for organizing U-M’s tremendous strength in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine around other tissues and applications.”
The project includes two key private-sector contributors—the McGuire Institute of Houston, with extensive experience in practice-based clinical research in regenerative oral and periodontal medicine, and the Avenues Company of Flagstaff, Ariz., a marketing consulting firm focusing on clinical and business development strategies in regenerative dentistry.
“The center is remarkable in the strength of the support teams, subject matter experts and partnerships that it uses to bring technologies through a staged process toward the clinic,” said Jan Stegemann, a U-M biomedical engineering professor and chair of the center’s Functional Assessment Team.
The center’s research is funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. U-M collaborators include the Medical School, School of Public Health, College of Pharmacy, College of Engineering, Office of Technology Transfer and Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research. Other co-investigators are from the McGowan Institute at Pittsburgh and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
Project directors and principal investigators include David Kohn, professor in the U-M dental school’s Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences and also professor of biomedical engineering; and William Giannobile, the William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor of Dentistry, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine and professor of biomedical engineering.
“This is an exciting new funding mechanism developed to better direct regeneration medicine technologies toward translation, and will elevate the stature of U-M in this area,” Kohn said.