More than 10 finalists have been selected to receive the first IOF Research Grants, which are divided into three categories: Clinical, Elite and Young. This is an orthodontic funding program established by the International Orthodontics Foundation (IOF) in its inaugural year, which emphasizes the advancement of clinical transformation in orthodontics. During the rigorous months-long review process, the Review Committee scrutinized over 64 applications, originating from 10 countries across Asia, North America, Europe, and South America. The Review Committee discussed the impact of each project and provided final comments for the grant applicants.
The first IOF Research Grants Program Review Committee consisted of 12 prominent professors who served as reviewers from all over the world. Throughout the evaluation process, the Review Committee members gave extensive consideration to all applicants, sharing fair and constructive feedback to point out areas in need of improvement. “Orthodontic research has had fewer funding channels available for basic and clinical research over the years. IOF with its generous grant program is providing a new avenue for researchers to receive funding for their orthodontic projects. This program is especially attractive for young and mid-level faculty seeking funding for their projects. This year, funded grant awardees will study clinical, basic science and translational research.” explained Prof. Ravindra Nanda, editor-in-chief at Progress in Orthodontics. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, US and as a Professor Emeritus at the Division of Orthodontics School of Dental Medicine, UConn Health.
“This is one of the largest global grant events in orthodontic without any geographical restrictions. We put special emphasis on the career development and education of junior faculty members. Besides providing strong funding to develop their research, our committee members also offer mentorship and guidance to all junior awardees.” Prof. Kang (Eric) Ting, Executive Director of IOF and faculty member at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, MA, encouraged young and unseasoned applicants to find their path and pursue “a career plan to be an independent researcher.”
IOF received applications from more than 20 universities and research institutions worldwide, with over half of the applications coming from associate professors. Some of the projects involved collaboration among researchers from different institutions and even across borders, including United States, Canada, and China. “Multiple collaboration is a good thing. The researchers must define their roles very clearly. If they can work together, that’s the way we’d like to see,” saidProf. Ching-Chang Ko, Chair of the Division of Orthodontics, Ohio State University College of Dentistry, and an IOF Co-Founding Committee member. In his view, the most distinctive trait of IOF Research Grants is its globalization. “It incorporated researchers from a lot of countries, which involves quality control and standardizations. I think it’s also a good first step to integrate an international group like IOF,” he said.
Some of the most popular topics among applicants included artificial intelligence, clear aligners, and oral biomarkers, among others. IOF appreciates and encourages the collaborative nature of orthodontic projects that involve multiple centers, especially with the evolution of communication and technologies in the field. “IOF Research Grants is not concentrated for one country. It's global,” Prof. Nanda shared the sentiment. “We have created a program where clinicians and researchers from all over the world can apply.”
From the 64 different applications, there were many examples of interdisciplinary collaborations, for example, projects with topics like sleep apnea, involving orthodontists, pediatricians, ENT doctors and other specialists. Regarding this variety in specialization, Prof. Ching-Chang Ko reiterated: “It’s a very good point, because everything we do is to get the patient care, the good clinical service and good technology for the people.”
“Among all the applications, quite a few have the potential of clinical transformation. The unique value of this program is that it’s based on clinical research and for the purpose of patient care,” commented Prof. Zhihe Zhao, President of Professor Committee, West China School and Hospital of Stomatology, Sichuan University, China. “I am particularly impressed by one of the applications that not only presented long-term clinical tracking results through multi-center collaboration but also met the need for a randomized controlled trial.”
Wrapping up the first year of its Research Grants program, IOF plans to launch the upcoming round in June 2023. Looking ahead, Prof. Zhao believes that there are going to be more researchers applying for the grants, and more world-eminent experts joining the Review Committee. On the other hand, Prof. Ting spoke of his expectations: “Looking into the future, our focus will be on the advances in new technologies such as AI, robotic systems, and biomaterial.”
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