Philadelphia –Penn Dental Medicine’s Dr. Henry Daniell has been recognized with a named professorship, becoming the W.D. Miller Professor, effective March 1. This honorific title recognizes his many contributions to Penn Dental Medicine since his recruitment and appointment as Professor in the School’s Department of Biochemistry in 2012.
“Dr. Daniell’s work has brought Penn Dental great recognition, but more importantly, it holds extraordinary promise for individuals around the world whose health is compromised by the spiraling cost of urgently needed medications,” says Morton Amsterdam Dean Mark S. Wolff.
With the aim of tackling the oppressively high cost of medications, Dr. Daniell’s work uses a novel, plant-based platform for the production and oral delivery of biopharmaceuticals. Dr. Daniell develops biopharmaceuticals by introducing therapeutic proteins into lettuce cells, then growing, harvesting, freeze-drying, and encapsulating these specially engineered plants. These shelf-stable capsules could then be taken orally, eliminating both the expense of injections and the refrigeration required to transport and store the drugs, as well as the costly fermentation process involved in traditional biopharmaceutical production.
In preclinical trials, Dr. Daniell has demonstrated the successful treatment of major metabolic and genetic disorders using this platform, including Alzheimer’s (crossing the blood-brain barrier and degrading plaques), diabetes, pulmonary hypertension, hemophilia complications, and retinopathy. He has also worked on booster vaccines that could help to prevent global outbreaks of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and polio.
Of the named professorship, Dean Wolff adds, “We believe Dr. Daniell is a fitting, contemporary successor to the legacy of W.D. Miller who also did much to advance science.”
Willoughby Dayton Miller, a member of the first graduating class (1879) of Penn Dental Medicine, was a legendary dentist and scientist. In 1890, Miller formulated the chemo-parasitic theory of caries (tooth decay). This theory held that caries are caused by acids produced by oral bacteria following fermentation of sugars. A second major contribution of Dr. Miller was the focal infection theory, proposing that oral microorganisms or their products have a role in the development of a variety of diseases in sites removed from the oral cavity. It is now generally accepted that oral bacteria can gain access systemically and cause disease at remote sites, or cause a general perturbation of the immune system leading to disease.