Through its educational, research, and patient care initiatives in response to COVID-19, Penn Dental Medicine remains committed to embodying its vision to be transformative leaders advancing oral health and well-being through education, compassion, and innovation. Read more >>
Penn Dental Medicine patient care centers are open. Please call 215-898-8965 to schedule an appointment.
Penn Dental Medicine Family Practice is open. To make an appointment, please call 215-898-7337.
Penn Dental Medicine has been following a phased plan for the resumption of research activities. Faculty, research staff, and students can find the School’s research resumption plans and protocols on InsidePDM — view plans »
As Penn Dental Medicine’s research enterprise continues to move forward, a number of Penn Dental Medicine researchers are working on studies, highlighted below, to potentially help in the understanding, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19.
An Antiviral Drug to Prevent Acute Respiratory Distress.
The laboratory of Dr. Robert Ricciardi, Acting Chair and Professor of Basic & Translational Research, is working on research to develop an antiviral drug that would prevent extreme respiratory distress following infection with the COVID-19 virus. When the virus enters the nasal and oral cavities via air droplets, it may progress to the lungs and infect the air sacs that exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. For this study, researchers are constructing special molecules to coat and mask the COVID-19 virus spike protein, which allows it to bind to the lungs’ epithelial cells, and could thus prevent the virus from infecting lung cells. Such an antiviral drug is intended to be inhaled to prevent lung destruction and provide sufficient time for patients to develop immunity.
Using Plant-Based Proteins for Therapy, Vaccine.
Dr. Henry Daniell, W.D. Miller Professor in the Department of Basic & Translational Sciences, is working on two novel strategies for combating COVID-19, both of which leverage decades of experience with the successful development of plant-based protein therapies to develop targeted oral therapeutics and vaccination strategies.
In the therapeutic realm, Dr. Daniell, in collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Margulies of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, is pursuing first-in-human studies of an oral preparation that supplements two beneficial proteins — ACE2 and its protein product, angiotensin (1-7) — that are severely depleted in COVID-19 patients. It will assess whether a drug developed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension could reduce lung and heart injuries in coronavirus patients.
The second project is focused on developing a plant-based oral vaccination to induce durable mucosal immunity that would boost waning immunity following an injected vaccine. Virtually all COVID-19 vaccination strategies are employing injectables that will produce systemic immunity, Dr. Daniell says, but not mucosal immunity. Mucosal immunity, however, is required to protect at viral entry ports and to be more durable and effective in patients with compromised immune systems.
Both projects were awarded funding through Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments and Therapies program to support the rapid advancement of vaccines, treatments, and therapies.
Novel Therapeutic Pathways to Prevent Infection.
Dr. Bruce Shenker, Professor of Pathology in the Department of Basic & Translational Science, is principal investigator for a study recently awarded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in response to its Notice of Special Interest Program for Urgent Competitive Revisions and Administrative Supplements for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This funding supports groundwork for developing a novel, alternative, and potentially transformative therapeutic approach to mitigate SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, infection.
The multidisciplinary team on the grant includes Dr. Gary Cohen, Professor of Microbiology, Department of Basic & Translational Science, and Dr. Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Basic & Translational Sciences.
The scope of the original study, which focused on bacteria and lymphocyte suppression in periodontitis, has been expanded to build on the researchers’ recent observations from their current study on the cytolethal distending toxin, which may help identify novel therapeutic pathways for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection.
According to the grant proposal, to contain the SARS-CoV-2 infection, it is important to identify early molecular mechanisms that contribute to its high infectivity, as these likely also represent attractive targets for therapeutic intervention. As part of the study, researchers will investigate human oral and pulmonary epithelial cells, including those in the tongue, gingiva, and floor of the mouth.
Assessing Transmission in Aerosol-Producing Environments.
Dental practice includes the generation of aerosols, which are thought to increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This study, launched earlier this fall in partnership with the Perelman School of Medicine, will determine whether the resumption of clinical dental practice increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection after baseline testing for the virus and compared to a large cohort of medical healthcare workers. Dr. Dana Graves, Professor of Periodontics and Vice Dean for Research & Scholarship, and Dr. David Hershkowitz, Division Chief of Restorative Dentistry are the principal investigators.
The information from this study may help determine whether the protocols for PPE and infection control are effective against SARS-CoV-2 transmission in an aerosol-generating environment. It is enrolling 300 Penn Dental Medicine practitioners who will have antibody testing performed at baseline and every two months for six months afterwards.
COVID-19- Related Lectures/Courses
A selection of online lectures/continuing CDE opportunities in which Penn Dental Medicine faculty discuss topics related to COVID-19. View courses »
Penn Dental Medicine Clinical Emergency Fund
Dental emergencies occur every day – from facial trauma to a myriad of problems that can lead to serious pain and even life-threatening circumstances when oral infections go untreated. During our current public health crisis, Penn Dental Medicine plays a unique role in managing emergency dental care in a safe environment and keeping patients out of ERs.
The new Penn Dental Medicine Clinical Emergency Fund will be used to support needs related to patient care during a designated crisis, including obtaining essential clinical supplies, supporting teledentistry programming, and meeting other vital needs. Support the fund »
- Our COVID-19 resources page with tools and information to support remote work and education. Visit InsidePDM »
In the News
Penn Dental Medicine faculty and staff discuss topics related to issues around COVID-19.
- (11/20/20) Uniting Against an Invisible Foe. All across the University, researchers have launched new areas of study in a effort to combat COVID-19, including Penn Dental Medicine’s Drs. Henry Daniell and Robert Ricciardi. Read more »
- (9/8/20) Penn Dental Among Wolf Administration Awardees to Battle COVID-19. Dr. Henry Daniell was awarded just over $823,000 to accelerate the progress of two novel strategies for combating COVID-19, both of which leverage decades of experience with the successful development of plant-based protein therapies to develop targeted oral therapeutics and vaccination strategies. Read more »
- (5/20/20) Oral care during COVID-19. Experts from the School of Dental Medicine share tips on how to maintain healthy teeth and gums even when a trip to the dentist isn’t in the cards for the time being and what to expect as restrictions are lifted. Read story »
- (5/6/20) Coming together to solve the many scientific mysteries of COVID-19. Penn Dental Medicine’s Dr. Henry Daniell is among the Penn scientists coming together to research COVID-19. Using his unique plant-based drug development platform, Dr. Daniell is working with Dr. Kenneth Margulies of Penn Medicine and others to assess whether a novel therapy may help those with serious forms of COVID-19 disease. Read story »
- (4/28/20) Health Care Education in a Virtual World. Dr. Faizan Alawi, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and fourth-year student Steven Ryoo share their perspectives on virtual education and instruction. Read story »
- (4/17/20) Penn Dental Medicine Presses on with Emergency Care. Dean Mark Wolff and Drs. Najeed Saleh and Frank Setzer share how the School is continuing to provide emergency care. Read story »
- (3/26/20) Mission Continuity Plans Help Keep Penn Operating. Blueprints developed over 12 years are in use across Campus during the pandemic. Melissa Miller, senior director of information technology for the School, shares continuity plans at Penn Dental Medicine that are helping to support remote operations. Read story »
- (3/25/20) Providing Care from a Distance. Telemedicine is a critical tool in the COVID-19 epidemic. Clinicians at the medical, dental, and veterinary schools are making use of virtual encounters to keep providing patients with safe, timely, quality care. Dean Mark Wolff shares the teledentistry efforts ongoing at the School. Read story »