From lab to label: Researchers move dental products to the marketplace

August 5, 2013

OppermanProductswebCould antioxidants heal wounds of the mouth? Their health benefits in fighting free radicals and preventing diseases have been well documented. One company, Periosciences in Dallas, wanted to test the theory that, in the right concentrations, antioxidants might heal oral lesions and wounds. But what concentrations and combinations of antioxidants would work?

Instead of using extracts from berries, which could vary in concentration depending on growing conditions and other variables, the company wanted to use purified antioxidants for predictable uniformity from batch to batch of the product. At question was knowing the exact concentrations and combinations to use. Periosciences approached Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry to do the preclinical testing of these antioxidants.

Dr. Kathy Svoboda, Regents Professor and graduate program director in biomedical sciences, worked with the company to determine which combinations work best. The company is now selling the formula in a toothpaste, mouth rinse and gel. The products can be purchased directly from the dentist’s office and can subsequently be reordered directly from the company.

Dr. Lynne Opperman, the college’s director of the Office of Technology Development and professor in biomedical sciences, often is contacted by companies such as Periosciences for help partnering them with researchers possessing certain expertise.

“Ninety percent of the translational research we do is requested by companies who know the volume of research we do, see our publications and ask us to do their preclinical research for them,” Opperman says.

“I set up meetings with those people I think might form synergistic teams,” Opperman said. “Usually the company will bond with researchers who have similar interests and personalities. As the meetings progress, I can help bring in business people, attorneys and possible investors from my contacts through the Dallas Regional Chamber, Texas Healthcare Wildcatters and North Texas Angel Network, among others.” Opperman also assists with setting up the contracts or sponsored research agreements.

Sometimes TAMBCD faculty, residents or researchers develop a product that needs transfer to the medical marketplace. Such is the case with Dr. Phillip Campbell, Robert E. Gaylord Endowed Chair in Orthodontics who combined four different types of medications to create an ulcer powder to help patients suffering from ulcers in the mouth.

According to Opperman, two studies were completed on the powder— one on traumatic ulcers and one on recurrent apthous ulcers — and results show the product works for both. Campbell patented and Opperman helped secure the license of the product to Wedgewood Pharmacy in New Jersey for production and marketing.

These are just two examples of translational research being conducted at the college.

Opperman said product ideas take a long time from concept to research phase to learning the process of technology development.

“Researchers and faculty are trained in the research process—how to write grants, how to design and conduct studies and how to write papers and get them published,” Opperman said. “For technology development, the processes are completely different, and most researchers receive no training in how to protect intellectual property, write a business plan, create research partnerships with corporate America, get federal clearance for new technologies, and actually commercialize a product.”

She said once inventors have experienced the process, it becomes easier and some become serial entrepreneurs.

“It takes a lot of time and energy and does not guarantee a successful product at the end of it,” Opperman said.  “However, this process can be very exciting and stimulating for some, and they become successful because they thrive on the challenge.  Of course it helps to have a fabulous technology idea.”

— LaDawn Brock

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