The UWI launches joint Periodontal Research Programme with International partners


Professor Paul Brown from the Department of Basic Medical Sciences in conjunction with co-Investigators Dr. Patricia Diaz, Professor of Empire Innovation and Director of the University at Buffalo Microbiome Center, NY, USA, and Dr. Alan Landay, Professor of Internal Medicine at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, USA, received a USD$1 million award from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH’s) National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and Fogarty International Center to create a training programme at The University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The purpose of this grant is to train dentists and scientists in periodontal research. The UWI is a sub-award recipient and the programme, which is a collaboration between the University at Buffalo, Rush University, and The UWI, will expand inter-disciplinary research capacity at The UWI Mona Campus to study the determinants of periodontitis and associated non-communicable chronic diseases in Jamaica.

This programme was created in response to the need for research in periodontitis, a highly prevalent non-communicable chronic condition with implications for oral and systemic health, for which there is a lack of knowledge concerning its epidemiology and pathophysiology in the Caribbean region. Mona School of Dentistry in collaboration with The Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR). The programme will include dentists and research scientists at The UWI, Mona Campus as well as a multidisciplinary team of mentors from The UWI School of Dentistry, the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, and CAIHR in Jamaica, and from The UWI Cave Hill and St. Augustine Campuses.

Professor Brown posited, "This is an excellent research and developmental opportunity for The University of the West Indies, and it follows on the tremendous success gained with another D43 grant that established a Virology Research Training Programme, with the view to train ten scientists over five years including pre-doctoral and post-doctoral trainees. These opportunities are critical for us at The UWI Mona Campus, as we develop research capacity while targeting important infections and chronic non-communicable diseases in Jamaica and the Caribbean region."

The development of this research capacity requires the training of clinical and basic scientists to be mentored by faculty from The UWI in collaboration with The University of Buffalo and Rush University in the US. Trainees will be degree candidates at The University of the West Indies enrolled in Masters or PhD programs, while dental clinicians conducting post-doctoral fellowship training, will be part of interdisciplinary teams that will investigate the social, behavioural, microbiome, and host response determinants of periodontitis in Jamaican subject cohorts.

The programme will take place over 5 years (2023-2028) and will be based within the Faculty of Medical Sciences (Mona School of Dentistry, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, and CAIHR). The training activities will revolve around two human cohorts and will include several multidisciplinary research projects that will create a foundational platform for studies on periodontal disease and associated comorbidities to be continued by future independent investigators at The UWI. Trainees will have a short-term (6 months) training experience in US laboratories directed by faculty mentors with extensive experience in epidemiology, periodontology, microbiome, bioinformatics, immunology, and cardiometabolic disease while completing their research degree or postdoctoral programmes at The UWI. This programme is expected to provide a rigorous interdisciplinary scientific training experience and create a pool of candidates with the potential to join the Faculty at The UWI. Further, this programme will also address the need for oral health research and interventions in Jamaica.

The University of the West Indies is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the study of periodontitis in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Faculty with expertise in conducting large epidemiological studies of oral health conditions (gingivitis, HPV infection) and chronic non-communicable systemic diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease), as well as faculty with expertise in microbial molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis, are currently part of The UWI. This will be the first training program of its kind in the Caribbean region.