Launch of the Centre for Oral Health Research

The University of Melbourne’s new Centre for Oral Health Research will to develop novel diagnostics, therapeutic and preventive oral care products to substantially lower the social and economic burden of the major chronic oral diseases.

Centre for Oral Health Research

Mission statement

The University of Melbourne’s new Centre for Oral Health Research will to develop novel diagnostics, therapeutic and preventive oral care products to substantially lower the social and economic burden of the major chronic oral diseases. It will also establish the link between those diseases and systemic diseases and conditions to inform government policy on population oral health and to promote better oral health in the broader community as well as in high risk groups. New areas of collaborative research will be developed through these systemic partnerships across the University of Melbourne Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Science and with hospital based researchers.

Background

The Centre for Oral Health Research, at the Melbourne Dental School, is an evolution of the Oral Health CRC and the CRC for Oral Health Science, which has long been supported by funding from the Australian Government through its Cooperative Research Centres Program. The CRC has also received support from the Victorian Government, CSL and the University of Melbourne.  The Centre will be led by Laureate Professor Eric C Reynolds AO FICD FTSE FRACDS who is also a previous head of the Melbourne Dental School. The new Centre for Oral Health Research will also continue to build on successful industry partnerships established under the Oral Health CRC.

Oral diseases are the most prevalent diseases of humankind and have a substantial economic and social burden.  The cost of treating oral diseases and disorders globally is US$298 billion per annum and in Australia is $8.4 billion per annum with the two major diseases being dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontitis (severe gum disease).  The full global economic impact of the oral diseases in 2010 was estimated at US$442 billion [J Dent Res 94:1355-1361 (2015)].  Over 25% of Australians suffer from caries and/or periodontitis.

Dental caries and periodontitis result from pathogenic bacterial biofilms and the Melbourne Dental School (MDS) with its many collaborators has spent the last 15 years studying the major oral diseases in an approach to determine the molecular basis of each disease.  This research has identified characteristics of the specific biofilms that has provided a cogent molecular basis for pathogenesis of both dental caries and periodontitis and the links with cardiovascular diseases, oral and oropharyngeal cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and dementia.

Denteric Pty Ltd is a Melbourne-based biotechnology company based at the University of Melbourne (UoM) developing a therapeutic vaccine for periodontal gum disease.


New funding to progress perio vaccine

Oral Health CRC parties, the University of Melbourne and CSL, together with Brandon Capital have established a spinout, Denetric Pty Ltd, to develop and commercialise the research outputs of the Oral Health CRC’s Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) vaccine research program.  The Pg vaccine research program, led by Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO from the University of Melbourne is a long running collaboration between the University of Melbourne and CSL Ltd that began in the 1990s and progressed under the Victorian State Government funded Victorian Centre for Oral Health Science (VCOHS), the CRC for Oral Health Science and the Oral Health CRC with Australian Government funding through the CRC Program in the Department of Industry Innovation and Science.

Denteric has received a Series A AU$14 million capital investment from the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund’s (MRCF) Biomedical Translation Fund, a Commonwealth-backed fund managed by Brandon Capital Partners, CSL Ltd., Australia’s largest biotechnology company, and the University of Melbourne.

Periodontal gum disease is a debilitating condition which affects a third of all adults globally, however no therapies or treatments exist and it remains a major unmet medical need.  Denteric is looking to commence its first clinical trial in humans in the next two to three years.

More information about the Pg Vaccine can be found on Pursuit: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/brush-your-teeth-it-could-save-your-life

Further background on the Pg vaccine

Chronic periodontitis is an inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth. It is associated with detachment of the gum tissues and loss of surrounding bone, and ultimately leads to tooth loss.  It has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other systemic disorders.  Moderate to severe forms of chronic periodontitis affect one in three adults, and the global prevalence of severe forms of the disease has been estimated at around 10%.

The standard treatment for chronic periodontitis involves the physical removal of plaque from below the gum line by scaling and root planing (SRP).  SRP is considered to provide a moderate level of clinical benefit to patients.  Antibiotic or antimicrobial agents are sometimes used as adjuncts to SRP, however they provide a small level of additional clinical benefit and only short term.  Due to these limitations the disease frequently progresses and further SRP treatments with or without surgical intervention are necessary.

The vaccine will target P. gingivalis, the major bacterium associated with progression of severe chronic periodontitis.  Studies have shown that the vaccine generates protective antibodies that neutralise the virulence factors of P. gingivalis (gingipain proteinases) and switch the immune response from predominantly pro-inflammatory to a protective anti-inflammatory response which protects against alveolar bone loss (loss of attachment) when administered as either a prophylactic or therapeutic vaccine in animal models of disease.

The therapeutic vaccine is envisaged as an adjunct to SRP.  Vaccination is expected to bring protection against the progression of chronic periodontitis and a reduced requirement for further SRP treatment.

More information about the Pg Vaccine can be found on Pursuit: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/brush-your-teeth-it-could-save-your-life