UCSF to Lead Resource Team for Craniofacial, Oral and Dental Tissue Regeneration

Technologies Will Help People with Congenital Disorders, Trauma and Diseases

By Scott Maier

UC San Francisco is the lead institution on a California-based, six-university consortium that was awarded $12 million by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to develop strategies for treating craniofacial and dental defects, which affect millions of Americans.

The three-year award, announced March 7, 2017, further develops the Center for Dental, Oral & Craniofacial Tissue & Organ Regeneration (C-DOCTOR), which is one of two national resource centers comprising the NIDCR’s Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Tissue Regeneration Consortium. It was created last year as a partnership among several California institutions: UCSF, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, the University of Southern California and Stanford University.

C-DOCTOR will recruit, cultivate and clinically translate innovative regenerative technologies that replace oral, dental and craniofacial tissues lost to congenital disorders, trauma and disease. To accomplish this, it will develop a comprehensive source of clinical, scientific, technical, regulatory, financial and managerial tools to promote the cost-effective, timely progression of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine products to human clinical trials.

“This award is an incredibly exciting step for the craniofacial community at UCSF,” said Ophir Klein, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Genetics, chair of the Division of Craniofacial Anomalies and director of the Program in Craniofacial Biology in the UCSF School of Dentistry. “Together with our colleagues, we are looking forward to translating the scientific advances obtained in basic research laboratories into treatments that can directly help patients. We are hopeful that these efforts will improve the lives of our patients who suffer from birth defects, trauma and other conditions that affect the skull, facial bones, teeth and facial soft tissue structures.”

Craniofacial and dental defects have devastating effects on patients, due to both the vital sensory organs and brain that are housed within the cranium, as well as the importance of the face in a person’s identity. Such defects also can lead to compromised general health. In recent years, stem cells, combined with sophisticated scaffolds, have shown promise as bio-inspired solutions to biological problems in dental, oral and craniofacial regenerative medicine.

“C-DOCTOR is a novel public/private partnership that leverages comprehensive basic/clinical science and innovation programs at the partner institutions with the practical goal of accelerating valuable new therapies to patient benefit,” said Jeffrey Lotz, PhD, professor and vice chair of research and the David S. Bradford, MD, Endowed Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCSF. “Our working teams include clinicians, scientists, industry experts, patient advocates and other stakeholders, such that C-DOCTOR is optimally organized to identify and refine technologies for clinical adoption in ways not previously possible.”

Along with Klein and Lotz, C-DOCTOR principal investigators include Yang Chai, DDS, PhD, Yong Chen, PhD, and Mark Urata, MD, DDS, University of Southern California; Kevin Healy, PhD, UC Berkeley; Nancy Lane, MD, UC Davis; Benjamin Wu, DDS, PhD, UCLA; and Michael Longaker, MD, MBA, Stanford University.

From the NIDCR’s original 2015 request for applications, 10 groups – including UCSF/UC Berkeley/UC Davis, UCLA/Stanford and USC – were selected as Stage 1 awardees. During that stage, the universities agreed to combine resources in a California consortium, taking on the C-DOCTOR name to compete for Stage 2 funding. Two awardees then were chosen for Stage 2: C-DOCTOR and a group led by the University of Michigan.

“C-DOCTOR is a great example of what happens through collaboration, not only within the UC System but also across the state of California,” said Christine Gulbranson, PhD, MBA, senior vice president in the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UC’s Office of the President and advisor to C-DOCTOR. “I can’t wait to see how C-DOCTOR’s innovations improve lives.”

C-DOCTOR is actively seeking to establish industry partnerships (contact Lotz), identify important clinical applications (contact Chai) and evaluate mature tissue regeneration technologies (contact Dezba Coughlin, PhD, for Northern California and Bridget Samuels, PhD, for Southern California).

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.