D’Souza Selected as Next NIDCR Director
On Aug. 13, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins announced that he selected Dr. Rena N. D’Souza as next director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
A licensed dentist, D’Souza is currently assistant vice president for academic affairs and education for health sciences at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. There she also serves as a professor of dentistry, the Ole and Marty Jensen chair of the School of Dentistry and professor of neurobiology and anatomy, pathology and surgery in the School of Medicine and the department of biomedical engineering. She is expected to begin her new role as NIDCR director later this year.
“Dr. D’Souza is renowned for her research in craniofacial development, genetics, tooth development and regenerative dental medicine,” said Collins. “She has worked as a proponent for NIH for decades, serving on critical advisory committees and as an expert consultant on multiple projects.”
D’Souza will oversee the institute’s annual budget of more than $475 million, which supports basic, translational and clinical research in areas of oral cancer, orofacial pain, tooth decay, periodontal disease, salivary gland dysfunction, craniofacial development and disorders and the oral complications of systemic diseases.
D’Souza’s research focuses on developmental biology and genetics; matrix biology; biomaterials, tissue engineering and stem cells; and clinical research. Her group’s discovery that a novel mutation in PAX9 was responsible for a severe form of human tooth agenesis opened a new field of research to discover genes and mutations as well as therapies for common human inherited disorders of the craniofacial complex. The finding, published in Nature Genetics, was highlighted in the Jan. 25, 2000, issue of the NIH Record (p. 3 of https://nihrecord.nih.gov/sites/recordNIH/files/pdf/2000/NIH-Record-2000-01-25.pdf).
She was selected to be the inaugural dean of the University of Utah’s School of Dentistry, which was established in 2012. She is currently the elected chair in the dentistry and oral health sciences section and elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She also is a former president of the American Association for Dental Research and the International Association for Dental Research, a fellow of the American College of Dentists and the recipient of the 2017 American Association for Dental Research Irwin D. Mandel Distinguished Mentoring Award. D’Souza served on the advisory committee to the NIH director in 2013-2014, and on NIH study sections. She is a devoted mentor and champion of diversity in the biomedical research workforce. Since 1985, she has served as a volunteer dentist for women in need and people struggling with homelessness in Salt Lake City, Dallas and Houston.
D’Souza received her bachelor’s degree in dental surgery from the University of Bombay, India, after which she completed her general practice residency. She earned her D.D.S., Ph.D. and master’s degree in pathology/biomedical sciences from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.