July 13, 2015
Dr. David Ojcius recently joined University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry as Chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences. He brings a wide range of research, scholarship and leadership skills to benefit the school's community of students, residents, faculty and staff.
Ojcius completed his baccalaureate and Ph.D. training in Biophysics from U.C. Berkeley and two postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Rockefeller University. He then worked for thirteen years at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the University of Paris-Diderot, where he studied interactions between human pathogens and the host immune system, and taught biochemistry, immunology, cell biology, and microbiology. He recently served as Professor, Chair and Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at U.C. Merced. Ojcius has a sustained record of scholarship and $2,300,000 of funded research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as Principal Investigator since returning to the United States in 2004; and since 2010, he has served as a permanent member of the Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences (ODCS) study section of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research / NIH. He joined the Dugoni School of Dentistry on July 1, 2015.
Ojcius is also editor-in-chief of Microbes and Infection, a journal published by the Institut Pasteur; and he is on the editorial board of several journals that publish results from research in the biomedical sciences or projects related to sustainable development.
Much of his recent research has focused on the immune response to periodontal pathogens such as Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum, and the molecular and cell biology of inflammation. "Research in this area is more relevant than ever," says Ojcius, "Since bacteria affect not only the health of the mouth (one may think of the obvious link between gum disease and tooth loss) but also have systemic effects. There is increasing evidence showing an association between oral bacteria and inflammation in the mouth, and chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease."
Ojcius maintains active collaborations with colleagues in France, Brazil, and Taiwan. A recent example of his interdisciplinary research is a study in which he participated that determined how Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), which have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, affect weight gain. By altering the composition of gut bacteria, the mushroom prevents and reverses symptoms of obesity in mice, including weight gain and insulin resistance. Ojcius participated in the study with colleagues in Taiwan. Read more about the study on the PBS NewsHour blog here.
Ojcius replaces Dr. Leigh Anderson who served as chair of the department since 2009. Anderson will continue teaching part-time as a professor in the school's basic science courses.
The biomedical sciences are an important part of the dental school's curriculum. In the first eight quarters of the DDS curriculum, students take courses in the biomedical sciences that include human anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology and microbiology. Those courses are followed by instruction in clinical topics such as the importance of saliva, tissue aging, nutrition and infection control. Throughout the curriculum, students learn application of basic sciences to biomedical problems of dentistry using the scientific method of inquiry.