Dr. Eugene Ko Joins Penn Dental Medicine Center for Clinical and Translational Research as Deputy Director


Philadelphia – To continue to expand the activities of the Penn Dental Medicine Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the Center welcomes Dr. Eugene Ko to the newly created post of Deputy Director, Clinical Research Operations.

“In this role, Dr. Ko will help to build upon the existing support for student and resident research and scholarships as part of the Penn Dental Medicine-supported mission of the Center, as well as greatly enhance our clinical research program,” says Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean, Dr. Mark S. Wolff.

In this new position, Dr. Ko will support the leadership of the Center in managing a team of translational scientists to design, validate, and execute translational plans for the growing portfolio of Penn Dental Medicine research. In addition, he will provide direct mentorship to the School’s faculty and students on clinical and translational research.

Since 2018, Dr. Ko has been Assistant Professor of Clinical Oral Medicine at Penn Dental Medicine. A graduate of Columbia University, College of Dental Medicine, Dr. Ko was trained in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University, followed by a Clinical Research Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Prior to his appointment at Penn Dental Medicine, Dr. Ko was a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, School of Dentistry.

Dr. Ko’s research interests are centered on the the advancement of oral health through translational research and novel medical devices and technologies. He is currently leading two projects that will have rapid clinical application and benefit for patients. In the FIRE Trial, a collaboration with Dr. Matt Killingsworth, a senior research fellow at The Wharton School, Dr. Ko is testing the efficacy of a smartphone app to assess real-time chronic pain data in burning mouth participants.

“A major problem with chronic oral pain disease, including burning mouth, is that we rely on patient memories to recall their pain experiences over long periods of time,” says Dr. Ko. “Our project will capture pain as it happens, which can lead to a better universal definition of burning mouth syndrome and improved understanding of when and how often pain occurs”.

Dr. Ko is also working on a medical device project co-sponsored by Penn Health Tech and the Center for Innovation & Precision Dentistry to develop new solutions for feeding devices in infants with cleft palate, who require specialized bottles. The Baby Seal project is developing an adaptor that converts any regular bottle into a specialized bottle.

“I learned about how difficult it is for parents to find specialized bottles that work for infants with cleft over dinner with friends,” recalls Dr. Ko. “But it was later, after I interviewed many feeding specialists around the country, that I understood the problem and how much of an impact was felt by parents. We hope that our device, a universal bottle adaptor, can revolutionize access to and affordability of different bottle options for parents of infants with cleft.”

Baby Seal was recently awarded a PRIMA grant by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which provides funds to startups for rapid prototyping and for creating economic impact in the Philadelphia region.