NIDCR Seeks Comments on FY16 Research Themes

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is seeking public input on their proposed research initiatives for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  These themes are used during the annual budget development and in communication with NIH, the Department of HHS and Congress about future research goals.  The proposed research themes include the following:

  • Effects of E-cigarette aerosol mixtures on oral and periodontal epithelia
  • Immune system plasticity in the pathogenesis and treatment of complex dental, oral and craniofacial diseases
  • Novel or enhanced dental restorative materials for Class V lesions
  • Oral HIVacc: Oral Musocal Immunization Approaches for HIV Prevention
  • Pharmacogenomics of orofacial pain management

How can you provide input? AADR members are strongly encouraged to provide feedback and input. You can either submit individual comments to NIDCR directly at by September 12, 2014 or send them to Carolyn Mullen by September 5, 2014 to include as part of AADR’s comments on the research themes.

NIDCR Director’s Dear Colleague Letter

Dear Colleagues:
As part of the budget planning process for Fiscal Year 2016, NIDCR is identifying topical themes for development into research initiatives. During this process, we welcome input from our scientific advisory boards, the extramural community, interested organizations, and the public at large.

What are Initiatives?

Initiatives are a vehicle used by the Institutes and Centers to communicate future research goals to NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress. NIDCR begins the initiative development process each year by identifying broad research topic areas, or themes. We then develop a specific initiative proposal for each theme, taking into consideration the input received. Themes identified for FY 2016 are listed below.

Please remember that initiatives are not a complete picture of the Institute’s planned research portfolio for the year indicated, nor do they signal that themes highlighted the previous year have been abandoned. Several initiatives from last year have become formal funding opportunities and are posted on NIDCR’s website​. Others are still under development. Proposed FY 2016 Initiatives will be integrated into this larger landscape as they are considered for funding.

How can you provide input?

Please send your comments and suggestions related to these specific theme areas directly to us If you want to suggest additional topic areas, or comment on the process for developing research initiatives, please send those suggestions to the same email address. Please submit all comments no later than Friday, September 12, 2014.

Thank you for your interest and input. I look forward to hearing from you.


Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Proposed NIDCR FY 2016 Research Themes (alphabetical by title)

Effects of E-cigarette Aerosol Mixtures on Oral and Periodontal Epithelia

Electronic cigarettes (ECs) are battery-operated devices with a metal heating element inside that vaporizes a solution containing a mixture of chemicals, including nicotine, natural flavors, and other additives. According to latest data, ECs are increasing in popularity in the United States. Twenty percent of adult smokers reported trying ECs in 2011, while EC use among middle school and high school children doubled to 7 percent in 2012. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration began to establish rules to regulate the marketing of ECs as tobacco products.

With the growing social acceptance of ECs as an alternative smoking product, an urgent need exists to determine their true biological effects on oral tissues. Currently, the effects of long term exposure to ECs are completely unknown and present a potential oral cancer and periodontal disease risk for users, due to their higher exposure to these chemical mixtures. This initiative will encourage studies to assess the effects of EC-associated aerosol mixtures on oral and periodontal epithelial cells. It will support the comprehensive identification of chemicals produced by ECs and the analysis of effects on oral and periodontal epithelia using in vitro and/or in vivo model systems including cell proliferation, cell death, development of cancer, and factors that maintain oral homeostasis, such as cytokines. This initiative will also emphasize the use of novel 3D culture systems of the oral mucosa and other clinically-relevant model systems.

Immune System Plasticity in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Complex Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Diseases

It is becoming clear that the immune system plays a major role in the initial onset and development of many dental, oral, and craniofacial diseases. Normalizing the responses of immune factors and their modulators could therefore be a promising therapeutic approach for these diseases. However, critical scientific gaps exist regarding our understanding of the relationship between the immune system and the mechanisms of disease development. NIDCR will support an initiative to elucidate more fully the role of the immune system in dental, oral, and craniofacial diseases. It also will explore how infectious agents, cancers, and other biological triggers attempt to short-circuit host immunity. Potential research areas include: systems approaches to understand innate and adaptive immunity in health and disease; new and improved large animal models to mimic human disease; new tools and technologies to precisely modulate the immune system to combat disease; increased understanding of the key molecules and pathways controlling disease; and development of clinically-applicable strategies to treat and prevent these diseases and conditions. The knowledge gained from this research should also lead to the development of therapies that are based on modifying the immune system. These therapies will leverage normal host immunity to prevent or reverse dental, oral, craniofacial disease and conditions. NIDCR will potentially partner with other NIH institutes and centers that share an investigative interest in these diseases.

Novel or Enhanced Dental Restorative Materials for Class V Lesions

As people age, their gingivae tend to recede and progressively expose more of the tooth to bacteria. This can lead to decay on the tooth root (root caries) and a need for a Class V restoration, meaning the filling is placed in the bottom third of the exposed tooth. Unfortunately, Class V restorations often fail in five years or less due to a confluence of factors. These include:

  • The sealed margins, or edges, of these fillings typically extend below the gingiva where they are difficult to keep clean, susceptible to attack from bacteria, and at risk of degradation. If the margin loses its seal, renewed decay often occurs.
  • Because the enamel at the base of the tooth is often gone, dentists must bond Class V restorations to the remaining underlying dentin and cementum, which weaken at higher pH levels than enamel, making the bond more problematic and prone to failure than elsewhere in the tooth. When chewing, the force of the bite transfers to the bottom third of the tooth, or exactly where the Class V restoration resides. This can take a physical toll on the filling, hastening its breakdown and, in many cases, further damaging the structure of the remaining tooth and supporting tissues.

Because of these challenges, NIDCR will support an initiative to develop a next-generation Class V restoration that will help more Americans protect their teeth and surrounding tissues as they get older. This fundamental design change in the Class V restoration aims to upgrade the integrity of the restorative margins while enhancing its durability. The new design should continue to be biocompatible and aesthetically pleasing, and easier to place than current Class V restorations. As part of this initiative, materials scientists will form multidisciplinary research teams to bring greater investigative power to bear on this difficult and complex research challenge.

Oral HIVacc: Oral Mucosal Immunization Approaches for HIV Prevention

Antiretroviral therapy continues to improve the survival and quality of life for millions of people infected with HIV. However, a vaccine to prevent HIV infection remains an important priority. Because oral immune tissue is an effective and easily accessible immunization route, NIDCR has focused for several years on supporting science to develop an effective oral HIV vaccine. This initiative will develop and test novel HIV vaccines for direct administration into oral lymphoid tissues to trigger protective, local, and systemic immunity. Potential areas of investigation include: defining how the HIV vaccine induces immunity; testing new HIV vaccine vectors and antigens; comparing different HIV vaccine immunization strategies; and studying the role of changes in the oral and immune cells upon oral HIV vaccination. This initiative will also encourage research to develop HIV vaccine formulations with or without immune boosting agents for direct oral lymphoid tissue inoculation and preclinical testing in animal models.

Pharmacogenomics of Orofacial Pain Management

Millions of Americans this year will experience a disabling acute or chronic pain in their jaw, tongue, gingiva, tooth, or elsewhere in the orofacial complex. Many will opt for over-the-counter or prescription drugs to try and alleviate the pain. But their success in controlling the pain may be written in part into their genes. Researchers now know that genetic variation influences an individual’s innate sensitivity to pain and their susceptibility to developing a chronic pain condition. Individuals also metabolize medications differently, which can influence their therapeutic response or adverse reactions. These genetic and other emerging biological variables hold the keys to developing more personalized – and effective – strategies in the future to control orofacial pain.


NIDCR will launch an effort to better define the common genetic variables that influence our response to strategies for managing orofacial pain. This initiative spurs research aiming to characterize this pharmacogenomic variation, with a focus on identifying unique molecular signatures, or telltale expression patterns of genes or proteins that could one day help to predict a person’s response to a pain medication. As a part of this effort, clinicians and basic scientists will form multidisciplinary teams, to pursue the initiative’s patient-centric goals. Although this research theme focuses on orofacial pain, it may also catalyze new pharmacogenomic studies for the broader pain research community. NIDCR will partner with member institutes of the Pain Consortium to help develop the initiative’s funding announcements.​​


Please note, when identifying themes for potential funding initiatives, NIDCR takes many factors into account. These factors include: scientific opportunity, alignment with the mission and goals of the Institute’s strategic plans, robustness of the existing portfolio in a particular theme area, both currently and in the year under consideration, and current budgetary climate.


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AADR Supports the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act

Today, the American Association for Dental Research sent a letter in support of the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act (S. 2658).  Sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, this legislation creates a mechanism by which predictable, increased and sustainable funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may be possible. AADR applauds this bill as an innovative approach to address the declining purchasing power of NIH and to prevent the further erosion of promising research.

However, since the funding levels dictated are still too low for other agencies and oral health programs AADR also strongly urges Congress to develop a long-term and permanent solution to replace sequestration for all non-defense discretionary spending.

AADR stands ready to work with the broader scientific community and Sen. Harkin to enact this legislation in the upcoming months.


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Senate Includes Dental Caries Report Language

Today, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee released the report accompanying the FY15 Senate LHHS Bill. The subcommittee proposes funding levels of $30.5 billion for NIH and $402.4 million for NIDCR. Additionally, on page 97 the subcommittee included report language about dental caries.

Dental Caries.—The Committee recognizes that dental caries remain the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults, resulting in a significant economic and health burden to the American people. Although caries has significantly decreased for most Americans over the past 4 decades, disparities remain among some population groups and this downward trend has recently reversed for young children. The Committee is concerned about conflicting information in the media regarding the benefits of community fluoridation and urges NIDCR to enhance efforts to communicate sound science related to dental caries and their prevention.”

At this time it is unclear when or if the full Senate Appropriations Committee will consider this legislation due to the continued contentious political climate. According to media reports Congress will most likely approve a short term continuing resolution funding the federal government at fiscal year 2014 levels through the November elections.

AADR will provide a more detailed analysis of the Senate LHHS bill and report during the next week. If you have any questions please contact Carolyn Mullen


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NIDCR Strategic Plan Released

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) released its 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. According to a dear colleague letter sent by NIDCR director Dr. Martha Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D.:

“In charting the course for the next six years, my NIDCR colleagues and I have worked closely with our stakeholders to carefully consider the Institute’s strengths, opportunities, and resources to derive a plan for how we can best map these to the oral health needs of the nation. The 2014 – 2019 NIDCR Strategic Plan is built on four key goals: support the best science to improve dental, oral, and craniofacial health; enable precise and personalized oral health care through research; apply rigorous, multidisciplinary research approaches to overcome disparities and inequalities in dental, oral, and craniofacial health; and ensure that a strong research workforce is dedicated to improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health.”

IADR/AADR applaud the efforts of NIDCR for the development of a comprehensive Strategic Plan. We look forward to working with NIDCR to implement the goals and objectives outlined in this document.



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#CutsHurt! Email Congress Today and Urge Them to End Budget Cuts

On July 15, the American Association for Dental Research (AADR), as part of the Coalition for Health Funding (CHF), which represents more than 90 public health advocacy organizations, released a new report documenting the dire consequences of Congress’s deep cuts to public health programs in recent years. “Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health” illustrates how recent outbreaks of measles, the steady drumbeat of school shootings at the hands of mentally ill gunmen, and an epidemic of heroin abuse have all been exacerbated by cuts to programs designed to address such issues of public concern. AADR’s contribution to the publication highlighting the recent austerity measures significant impact on dental, oral and craniofacial research may be found on pages 36-37.

Why is this important? Most reporters and members of Congress believe that the story about budget cuts stopped in December with the approval of the Bipartisan Budget Act; however we know this agreement only provided limited relief and in 2016 sequestration will be back in full force.  The ultimate goal with this report is to highlight the impact of federal budget cuts, compel Congress to lift the spending caps and put an end to these austerity measures (once and for all).

Take Action: Click here to help amplify our message on Capitol Hill today by sending an email to Congress and urge them to stop further cuts to biomedical research and public health programs. Please insert a personal story about the impact of budget cuts on your programs between the second and third paragraphs.


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The Importance of Advocacy: Update from the AADR Gert Quigley Fellow

By Sarah Hiyari 2014-15 AADR Gert Quigley Fellow

Over the summer, I spent six weeks in Washington, DC serving as the AADR Gert Quigley fellow. My time in DC was spent attending hearings, observing bill mark-ups that authorize agency activities or provide funding for government agencies, meeting with congressional staff to discuss oral and craniofacial research, visiting the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, and attending meetings held by various health coalitions.

My educational background is set firmly in science. I have pursued research from my undergraduate days until now, working on a Ph.D. in oral biology at UCLA. Yet, I have been pretty divorced from the intricate roles that Congress plays in providing, promoting and furthering science in America. We all feel the side effects of congressional policy and funding outcomes: limited money for research projects, the high pressures to constantly produce top quality manuscripts, publish or perish, and the ever daunting fact that the average age to receive an R01 is around 40 (yikes!), but I never knew the congressional process that takes place. For some reason I just assumed that because I understood science’s importance for basic discovery, benefiting health care, and establishing America as a leading nation, that everyone else should see and understand its benefit too.

You would be hard pressed to find a member of Congress state outright that they do not support science in America however; I have seen that the true benefits of scientific discoveries are not effectively translated, in a way that nonscientists (i.e. members of Congress) can understand. That’s where we come in as scientists. It’s not only our job to investigate and perform great research; we have to be vocal about it, because if we don’t do it, who will?

Being in D.C. and on the hill, I have also observed how issues that may seem unrelated to science can have a huge effect on funding for research. This summer, a number of issues surfaced including the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) crossing the U.S. border, the wildfires on the west coast and the veteran’s health issues, to name a few. While these issues seem to be in a completely separate realm from science, they require financial action from Congress and in a climate where money is sparse, it’s inevitable that other programs get financially squeezed.
While many of these issues are out of our control, one thing I’ve learned from being on Capitol Hill is how much we can advocate for continued scientific research, and dental and craniofacial research in particular. These advocacy activities, such as meeting with members of Congress, sending action alerts and letters of support start with us, as students, and are actually pretty easy to do. Getting involved early with organizations advocating on behalf of oral health such as AADR gives us a voice and a resource of like-minded colleagues and together, we can all make a difference.

I look forward to continuing my work as the Gert Quigley Fellow this year as an active member of the AADR Government Affairs Committee and the AADR National Student Research Group. If you want to become more involved in AADR advocacy, please contact Director of Government Affairs Carolyn Mullen at



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More Budget Cuts? It’s Possible. Advocate Today!

Last year Congress implemented devastating budget cuts known as sequestration and shutdown the federal government. This year, despite the efforts of our community, the appropriations process has stalled and increased funding for dental, oral and craniofacial research may not happen.

What can you do?
This August, members of Congress will be working in your state and community. You can invite a member of Congress to tour your research facility or schedule a district office meeting. During these interactions it is imperative that members of Congress know that federal budget cuts have consequences and increased funding for dental, oral and craniofacial research is necessary.

Members of Congress listen and care deeply about the opinions of their constituents. While AADR works on your behalf in Washington, DC, local advocacy is extremely important to amplify our message here and for you to build a relationship with members of Congress.

To participate in the AADR August advocacy activities, please contact Carolyn Mullen at to learn more.


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Senate Proposes Increased Funding for NIH and NIDCR

Earlier this week, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee voted to move its version of the fiscal year (FY)15 LHHS Appropriations bill forward to the full Appropriations committee. According to the summary and accompanying charts released by the subcommittee this legislation proposes $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $402.4 million for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The proposed funding level for NIDCR is an approximate $5.8 million increase from the FY14 and $5.3 million over the President’s FY15 budget request.

Unfortunately, at this time it is unclear when or if the full Senate Appropriations committee will consider this legislation due to the continued contentious political climate. As a result, the legislative text and accompanying report language have not been released. Additionally, the House of Representatives LHHS Subcommittee has not set a date for consideration of their version of the FY15 LHHS bill.

In the upcoming weeks and months, AADR will continue advocate on behalf of dental, oral and craniofacial research to ensure increased funding is secured in the final FY15 Appropriation bill.


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National Science Foundation: Funding Update

Recently the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill by a 321-87 vote and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill yesterday. The CJS bill proposes funding allocations for the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.  For NSF specifically, the House allocated approximately $7.4 billion, a $232 million increase from FY2014 and $149 million above the President’s budget request. The Senate proposed $7.25 billion, which is $83 million above FY2014 and level with the President’s budget request.

The Senate bill includes report language commending the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for their work on open access to federal research and expects the majority of federal agencies to implement plans to increase public access to federally funded scientific research by early 2015. Additionally, both bills included report language calling on OSTP, in coordination with the National Institutes of Health and other agencies to coordinate and create a roadmap for medical imaging research.

During the next month the Senate FY15 CJS bill will move to the floor for consideration by the full Senate. Following votes on this legislation, the House and Senate will resolve the differences between the two versions of the CJS bills.


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Mind the Tap Campaign: Attacks on HHS Evaluation Tap Have Consequences

This week the Friends of the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Friends of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) launched a campaign to educate the public and Congress about an obscure budget mechanism known as the evaluation tap. Established in 1970, the evaluation tap is a unique budget transfer that authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use or “tap” a portion of appropriations from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Congress specifies the amount of the tap in the annual appropriations bills, which in recent years is 2.5 percent of program appropriations. As a result, the budget authority appropriated to the agencies specified in the annual appropriations bills overstates the amount of money available for the agencies to spend. For example, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research received  $398.6 million, but after the evaluation tap and other transfers were administered the final funding level was $397.1 million in fiscal year 2014.

Importantly, the tap is used to support, in full or part, more than a dozen critical public health and health research functions such as the Agency for Health Research and Quality and half of the budget for the National Center for Health Statistics.  Therefore, without the evaluation tap, many critical health functions will be significantly undermined, or cease to exist.

According to Academy Health, “In the upcoming months, policymakers may look to eliminate or reduce the evaluation tap as a way to ‘increase’ funding for contributing health agencies while complying with austere spending caps. However, such action is not without consequences.” If the tap is eliminated or reduced without an alternative funding mechanism, this will have significant consequences for all of the agencies and programs funded by the tap.

To learn more about the evaluation tap, click here to read a one page document created by the Friends of AHRQ and the Friends of NCHS.


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