Huakun Xu, PhD, MS, professor in the Division of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), leads a multidisciplinary team that has produced 237 publications, 5 patents (with 2 pending), and has been cited more than 9,000 times. He and his colleagues are among the leading researchers working to develop new and therapeutic dental materials and stem cell constructs for tissue regeneration.
In honor of his body of work, Xu was awarded the 2018 International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Distinguished Scientist Isaac Schour Memorial Award. This award is intended to confer the highest honor in the field of dental and craniofacial research and elevate those scientists who bring about significant advances in oral health.
In light of this significant achievement, Xu is quick to credit his faculty and staff, as well as the leadership of UMSOD, for accomplishing what he believes to be a “collective award.”
“I feel honored and happy, but also humbled. I know that this is an award for our group effort and group achievement,” he says.
In particular, Xu credits colleagues Michael Weir, PhD, research assistant professor, and Mary Anne Melo, DDS, MSc, PhD, associate professor, for helping to lift the reputation of the Biomaterials division through their stellar work.
“I feel that this award is related to the accumulation of achievements over the years in the lab, mainly in the fields of novel bioactive and therapeutic dental materials as well as stem cells and bone tissue engineering. All of the contributions of Weir, Melo, and former and present students and post-doctors have contributed to the awards committee members noticing our work and citing it in their own publications,” he says.
Weir credits Xu's leadership for helping to guide the department to success.
“Huakun is very deserving of this award,” says Weir. “His curiosity, work ethic and determination are qualities that make him an excellent scientist. It is that, combined with his generosity and kindness, that has served as an example to others he has mentored and collaborated with over the years.”
Xu also credits Dean Mark Reynolds, DDS, PhD, and Thomas Oates, DMD, PhD, chair of the Department of Advanced Oral Sciences and Therapeutics, for supporting and collaborating with the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Division, particularly in discussions and directions on the design of novel dental materials and stem cell constructs suitable for clinical applications such as periodontal engineering.
“We need clinical collaborators like Dean Reynolds and Dr. Oates, who are practitioners, to help make our research clinically relevant.”
Xu came from China to the United States in 1988 to pursue a doctorate in physics at Kansas State University before switching fields. “Because I am so practical, I realized that I am more attracted to engineering,” he said in an interview published in the Fall 2017 issue of Mdental magazine.
Under his leadership, the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering lab has experienced sustained success producing high-impact publications. One recent article, published in the International Journal of Oral Science, titled “Evaluation of three-dimensional biofilms on antibacterial bonding agents containing novel quaternary ammonium methacrylatesis,” is listed in that publication’s top 10 most highly cited papers in the past three years.
Another paper was selected among the “2016 Highlights” by Biomedical Materials as being one of the very best and most influential research articles published in the journal that year. In addition, a past departmental presentation won the IADR Arthur R. Frechette Prosthodontic Research Award in 2015, and another paper won the IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award in 2013.
Going forward, Xu envisions continuing the department’s focus on obtaining additional patents and technology transfers with the purpose of developing bioactive and therapeutic dental materials products.
“We would like to see some products on the market that would benefit patients,” he says.