NEWARK, NJ - Researchers at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine will now be able to explore treatments in cancers, autoimmune diseases and oral health issues in new labs that were today unveiled. 

The labs were built with a $16 million grant from the New Jersey Higher Education Bond Fund and took about two years to complete. The research that is done at the new facilities will also be used for innovations at the dental school's clinic, which provides care at a reduced price from pre-doctoral students.

“With the opening of this facility, we have the opportunity to create more jobs and improve health care,” said the dental school’s dean, Cecile Feldman.

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The state grant went towards a completely new space for the dental school’s Center for Microbiology and Immunology and also includes and expansion for the Center of Oral Biology Research.

Some of the school’s original labs were built in the 1970s and 1980s. The old labs did not have an open-space design that allowed for open communication among researchers, explained Rutgers Department of Oral Biology Chair Dr. Daniel Fine.

“The labs they had here were stone-block labs that were back to back,” said Fine, who is also the Center for Oral Infectious Diseases director at Rutgers. “Most people think the researchers work in the labs and they just do their little things and they don't talk to each other. But that's absolutely the opposite of what happens. Researchers actually need to communicate with each other.”

The dental school has in the past received several multi-million dollar federal grants, private investments and industrial funds because of its approach to research.

Fine, for example, has used a $3.2 million National Institutes Health grant to study a rare form of gum disease that affects two percent of African-American children. His research included sampling over 2,500 children from Newark between the ages of 11 and 16, and the dental school offered free treatment to those in the study.

Much of the research in the school may begin with the mouth, but then extends to other areas of science. Dr. Scott Kachlany, a Rutgers researcher, discovered an oral organism that kills cancer cells, so now he’s working in cancer biology.

The labs will be run by faculty members and be used by students to forge ahead with research, including therapies that can potentially treat cancer and autoimmune diseases like HIV, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The dental school has also conducted research for the military that could help stop bacteria resistant to antibiotics in its tracks.

Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. also attended today’s grand opening ceremony at the school's Newark campus, which is located at 110 Bergen St. The congressman, who represents parts of Newark, said he's fought for grants that ensure public researchers like the ones at Rutgers are well-funded.

“This new building is an impressive testament to the great work of researchers at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine,” Payne said. “The new research labs, offices for research faculty, and collaborative spaces mean that there will be more space for big ideas.”

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