The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry ranked first in Texas and 7th nationally in National Institutes of Health research funding among 71 accredited dental schools during the federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2022, according to the Blue Ridge Institute for Biomedical Research, an independent nonprofit organization.
Blue Ridge rankings are generated annually from NIH reports of health science research funding, which represent the largest public source of such funding to biomedical research institutions in the world.
The school received $11,258,229 in federal funding from the NIH in fiscal 2022, climbing nine spots from 16th nationally in 2021, and well ahead of other Texas dental schools. The total represented a 123% jump in NIH funding from $5.05 million the previous federal fiscal year.
“The achievement of the School of Dentistry in obtaining funding, from the NIH and many other funding entities, is an acknowledgement of the impactful research our faculty, students and staff are conducting that is improving oral health and making lives better,” said Peter M. Loomer, DDS, PhD, dean of the dental school. “I congratulate our exceptional researchers for this success.”
The leap in ranking can be attributed in part to $4,698,102 in funding during the fiscal year to a team led by Armen Akopian, PhD, professor of endodontics, to study how sensory neurons in the jaw joint and mastication muscles influence and create pain. The fiscal 2022 amount is part of an overall five-year, $9.8 million grant that could help lead to safer drug alternatives to opioid painkillers, helping to curb addiction.
In all, the school received 21 NIH grants in federal fiscal year 2022, nine of them “R01” or Research Project Grants. R01 is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH, providing support for health-related research and development based on the NIH mission.
Notably, for the first time in its history, the school received a highly competitive K99 NIH Pathway to Independence Award, to support the postdoctoral research of Audrey Rakian, DDS, PhD. The award supports exceptional postdoctoral researchers in completing the final years of their work and transitioning to roles as independent scientists.
In other highlights, $577,584 in fiscal year 2022 NIH funds went to principal investigators Brij B. Singh, PhD, associate dean for research at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry, and Bibhuti Mishra, associate professor of developmental dentistry, as part of a multi-year $3.2 million grant to study the role of Glycolytic metabolites in Sjogren’s syndrome.
And another $391,258 during the fiscal year went to Georgios Kotsakis, DDS, MS, associate professor of periodontics, as part of a multi-year $2.4 million grant to conduct a clinical trial studying the responsible use of antibiotics in combination with other treatments for periodontal disease.
The school tallied a record total $35 million in single- and multi-year grant amounts secured (but not all paid out) during the school’s academic fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2022, from NIH and all other sources.
“I am extremely proud of our faculty,” Singh said. “Every day our faculty works hard to improve the research and scholarly activity at our school. Increasing in the NIH ranking is a testament of their success and how far we have come as a group.”