Gum disease vaccination aim of world-first research

Vaccinating people against gum disease will be the aim of world-first Melbourne research that today receives a $21.2 million boost from the Federal Government.

The grant, announced by Federal Science Minister, the Hon Peter McGauran under the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) programme, brings total investment at the new Oral Health Science Cooperative Research Centre to more than $100 million.

The massive injection of funds will also further develop and commercialise another important Melbourne discovery - food additives designed to rebuild unhealthy teeth and gums.

Planting “teeth seeds” in adult gums to re-grow missing or damaged teeth will be the third part of the research at the Oral Health Science CRC.

CRC Chief Executive Officer Professor Eric Reynolds said it was visionary of Science Minister, the Hon Peter McGauran, to invest in such innovative research to continue Australia’s battle against oral disease.

“Even beyond the immediate $3 billion which Australians spend each year on treating oral disease, oral disease has now been linked to a range of illnesses from pre-term labour, and therefore poor baby birth weights, to heart attack and stroke,” Professor Reynolds said.

The CRC partners are the University of Melbourne, primarily through the School of Dental Science, Monash University, Victorian-based companies Recaldent and CSL and a Japan-based multinational, GC Corporation. With the Federal Government funding, the value of the research to be undertaken will be more than $100 million.

Research will be primarily based at the University of Melbourne’s new Bio21 Institute for Molecular Science and Biotechnology, the Royal Dental Hospital, and Monash University.

“The partners making up this CRC already have a successful track record in developing and putting to market highly successful products for the prevention and treatment of major oral diseases such as tooth decay,” Professor Reynolds said.

“For example, technology developed at the School of Dental Science has already been commercialised and resulted in the spin-off Victorian company Recaldent, which makes products that repair the early stages of tooth decay.

“This additive is now in products being sold to dentists around the world and one of our major aims is to significantly expand the application of this new technology to develop toothpastes and mouth rinses for use by the general public.”

The CRC will also focus on an area where the University of Melbourne School of Dental Science is leading the world: oral vaccination against highly pathogenic, gum disease causing bacteria.

“A major research programme for us will be developing chair-side diagnostics for these bacteria and the development of new pharmaceuticals and ways to stimulate the host defence by vaccination to stop the bacteria from causing disease,” Professor Reynolds said.

“We will also be researching how to replace lost or damaged teeth or tooth tissue with real tooth enamel. This will involve the development of biocompatible dental materials and ultimately the replacement of lost teeth using ‘teethseeds’”.

“The global dental scientific community is working towards developing these teethseeds, obtained from cells from the patient’s own teeth, so that they can be implanted into the gum and erupt into new teeth. We believe this funding will mean we can make a major go of being the first to achieve that.”

Professor Reynolds also thanked the Victorian Government and Innovation Minister John Brumby for a grant of $3.5 million that had put in place many of the core activities and the infrastructure required for the CRC's work.

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