Bench time, multiplied

A K02 Independent Scientist grant paves the way for deeper research and career development for this biomedical sciences faculty member and his team
December 19th, 2018
Dr. Xiaofang Want Research Team

Left to right: Dr. Bikash Lamichhane; Dong Yang; Dr. Lu Han; Changchun Dong; and Dr. Xiaofang Wang.

It was early 2015 when Dr. Xiaofang Wang, assistant professor in biomedical sciences, removed the gene known as FAM20B — typically associated with cartilage development — from mouse models. That’s when things started to get interesting. Teeth showed mineralization defects with enamel, which was to be expected. But repeatedly, models revealed the growth of additional teeth. The gene also showed promise in controlling limb and finger development.

Since then, Wang’s team has received $1.8 million in National Institutes of Health funding. Dental students and visiting scholars working on his project have received international recognition, and he has presented his findings at a symposium before an audience of his peers, including the American Association for Dental Research/Canadian Association for Dental Research Annual Meeting in March.

This fall, Wang learned he is the recipient of the NIH K02 Independent Scientist Award, a five-year, $746,000 grant that protects his research time and fosters career development. He’s not the only one to benefit. As part of the grant, Wang can up the ante for his four-person research team with salary support and a built-in mentoring plan.

“I will spend significant time mentoring each team member with a tailored career development plan,” Wang says.

As for his workdays, 75 percent of his time will be devoted to research, and the remainder will go to teaching and related duties. Immediate plans call for continued experimental studies related to FAM20B.

It’s all part of a larger plan.

“My long-term career goals are to become an independent and outstanding scientist and make significant contributions to the tooth development research field,” says Wang. “The K02 grant is a continuation of my commitment to research and affords me the opportunity to gain added experience and knowledge.”

— Jennifer Fuentes