UW School of Dentistry

Dean Berg urges wider research collaboration

Dean Joel Berg discusses research collaborations during his keynote talk.

Dean Joel Berg discusses research collaborations during his keynote talk.

Dean Joel Berg urged wider research collaboration with partners in the University of Washington and private industry in his keynote speech during the School of Dentistry’s annual Research Day on Sept. 21.

Citing the Sonicare electric toothbrush, which was developed by the UW, Dr. Berg said, “If you have an idea, there are people who can help you vet it and protect it.”

He noted that some research ideas may hold value only as tools for the scientific community, but still recommended that ideas be assessed routinely for their commercial value as well.

Dr. Berg also discussed how the focus of dentistry is shifting from the treatment to the prevention of dental disease.

“Right now in dentistry we live in the ‘cavity zone,’ ” he said. “We don’t do anything about this.  Products are coming. New dentistry is coming. We have to look at commercialization as an end point (although) not every idea will lead to commercialization. Every change represents a new idea.”

Collaborations and partnerships were behind the School’s “incredible” three Norton M. Ross Award recipients, Dr. Berg said. The Ross Award, the American Dental Association’s highest honor in clinical research, was given this year to Dr. Peter Milgrom of Oral Health Sciences.

“An idea is a technological innovation. It’s early testing and checking. It’s checks and balances,” Dr. Berg said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes really hard work.”

Dr. Berg explained the importance of “technology startup incubator work with others” and “greater research collaboration with the private sector and individuals,” as well as The Center for Pediatric Dentistry.

“Infrastructure is very important. We have it here and at The Center,” said Dr. Berg, mentioning several studies that are under way.

“Our School doesn’t avail itself of the opportunities we have today,” he said, especially the UW’s C4C (Center for Commercialization).

“What they have to help you is probably better than anything we have. They will evaluate your idea, they have all kinds of funds,” said Dr. Berg. “They will help assess your idea, introduce it to industry and protect it properly and actively start a business.”

Dr. Berg also invited students to look at the marketplace with him to determine if an idea has commercialization potential.

“Scientific ideas are good, too,” he said. “Think of a plan for how to disseminate that idea once it gets developed.”

 Following Dr. Berg were faculty members:  Eric Seibel, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the UW, who discussed “The Scanning Fiber Endoscope and its Applications in Dentistry”; Dr. John Wataha,  Chair of Restorative  Dentistry, who shared “Collaborations at the Cookie Plate – From Nuclear Waste to New Dental Restoration Materials”; and Dr. Avina Paranjpe,  Assistant Professor, Department of Endodontics, who  spoke on “Mineral Trioxide Aggregate: Applications in Endodontics.”

Jonathan An describes his study to fellow second-year student Chase Talbot.

Jonathan An describes his study to fellow second-year student Chase Talbot.

After the lectures, the Dental Student Summer Research Program Poster Presentations were held in the South Campus Center Lobby. Jonathan An (’15) received the 2012 Clinician Scholar Award for his project, “Chemokine Epigenome Modification and Its Association With Bacteria in Periodontitis.” It was mentored by Whasun “Sun” Oh Chung, PhD, Research Associate Professor and Director, Summer Research Fellowship program, with additional collaboration from Dr. Sul Ki Hong and Dr. Bob London of Periodontics and Dr. Chuck Spiekerman of Oral Health Sciences. 

An will represent the School in the National Student Research Competition at the 2013 ADA meeting Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in New Orleans.

The other finalists were Jackie Wong (’15), Michael Baldwin (’15) and Laurianne Sakai (’16).

Dr. Susanne Jeffrey, Chair of the Research Advisory Committee, moderated the competition and led a discussion on the subsequent decision making.

“All the finalists who participated in this year’s Clinician Scholar competition gave an excellent presentation.  All of their time and efforts invested in their projects were clearly visible on their posters and in their presentations,” said Dr. Chung. “Needless to say, they make our school very proud with the quality of work they have accomplished.”