Cincinnati Children’s Earns $7.5 Million Grant To Improve Surgical Repair of Facial Malformations

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has received an eight-year grant of approximately $7.5 million to continue research into improving surgical repair of facial malformations.

Samantha Brugmann, PhD, a scientist in the Division of Plastic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s, is one of just four researchers nationwide to receive a 2017 Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) award from the National Institutes of Health.

“Facial malformations are difficult to repair because a large source of skeletal tissue is often necessary,” says Brugmann. “Our research program studies the neural crest cells that give rise to the facial skeleton and tries to direct their differentiation – the process by which cells become more specialized – into skeletal tissues that can be used for surgical repair.”

Cincinnati Children’s research team is partnering with Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, to help carry out the initial phases of the research project. 

“Smile Train has helped more than one million children with cleft lip and/or palate and we are eager to help advance research that has the possibility to unlock future innovation in cleft treatment for patients in need,” says Dr. Larry Hollier, chairman of Smile Train’s medical advisory board. 

The SOAR awards, issued by the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), provide up to eight years of grant support to allow mid-career investigators with outstanding records of productivity to have stable funding to pursue potentially transformative research programs. 

“To ensure the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise, we must encourage successful independent careers for early-stage investigators and retain them as they become more established,” said NIDCR Director Martha Somerman, DDS, PhD. “The SOAR awards will enable these four outstanding investigators to continue their career trajectories while pursuing dental, oral, and craniofacial research projects that have the potential to break new ground and ultimately improve human health.”  

NIDCR created the SOAR awards in 2015 to sustain exceptional scientists through a challenging early-established career phase, when many researchers are at risk for leaving the biomedical workforce due to a hypercompetitive funding environment. NIDCR issued the first round of SOAR funding in 2016.

“We are delighted that this round of funding will support diverse areas of dental, oral, and craniofacial science,” said Lillian Shum, PhD, director of NIDCR’s Division of Extramural Research. “Instead of focusing on several short-term projects, as is typical in academia, each awardee will be able to combine their separate but related areas of interest into one larger research program that could significantly advance the field.” 

NIDCR’s SOAR awards reflect a broader trans-NIH effort to develop additional strategies to grow and retain talented scientists across critical career stages. In August 2017 NIH launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, which places greater emphasis on current NIH funding mechanisms aimed at early and early investigators, such as NIDCR’s SOAR program, the NIH Common Fund’s New Innovator Awards, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases’ Supplements to Advance Research (STAR) from Projects to Program, and the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences’ Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA). 

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is the nation’s leading funder of research on oral, dental, and craniofacial health.

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Jim Feuer