Roberto Genco - October 2016
Robert Genco, D.D.S., Ph.D., is the Director, UB Microbiome Center, and distinguished professor of oral biology, periodontics and microbiology at the University at Buffalo, N.Y.
Genco earned a B.S. from Canisius College, Buffalo, N.Y.; a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School, Philadelphia; and a certificate in periodontics from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine.
Genco’s laboratories and clinics are involved in studies of oral infections. Initial studies focus on the role of oral flora in periodontal diseases, specifically the virulence factors of P. gingivalis, concentrating on molecular genetic studies of fimbriae and fimbrial-mediated interactions and on toll-like receptors as they are stimulated by bacterial products. Genco and his colleagues were among the first to show that periodontal infections in people with diabetes mellitus led to worsened glycemic control, and increased risk for heart disease and kidney disease.
His group also showed that treatment of periodontal disease in diabetes leads to improved glycemic control, and the treatment procedures developed for this study are used nationally in Native American populations who suffer from severe diabetes and periodontal disease. Also studied are the effects of reduced bone density as found in postmenopausal women, and estrogen deficiency on oral bone loss. Additionally, Genco has carried out a series of studies on the effects of oral infections on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.
Having an interest in tissue engineering, Genco and his laboratory are developing regenerative procedures using growth factors and other materials for regeneration of the periodontium and bone around implants. They are currently developing nanoparticle ceramics for bone regeneration and repair.
Since joining IADR in 1969, Genco has remained an involved member and has served as AADR president (1985-86) and IADR president (1991-92). Having been recognized for his scientific contributions to the field, he was the recipient of the 1975 IADR Young Investigator Award, 1981 IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Periodontal Research and the 2016 AADR Distinguished Scientist Award.
How did you first learn about IADR/AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first learned about IADR/AADR when I was a sophomore dental student working in a research laboratory in the microbiology department. My mentor was attending the IADR General Session and offered to take me to the meeting. That was my introduction to IADR/AADR and attending my first meeting was an exciting experience. At that meeting, I had opportunities to meet many of the people I had read about in literature as a dental student. I have remained friends with some of them throughout the years. I attended the meeting the following year and presented my research, which was also exciting because I received feedback from the attendees.
What has been the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
My AADR membership has allowed me to interact with colleagues and stay current on developments at the yearly meetings. I have also been able to benefit from the research that’s published in the journals. There have been scientific benefits to being a member but also social benefits because I have gotten to know other members and students.
What are you currently researching?
My current research is on the microbiome and its relationship to oral and other diseases, specifically diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. My laboratory is looking at the oral microbiome as it relates to the gut microbiome, and also how the oral microbiome relates to the microbiome in the placenta.
How has AADR impacted your career and what opportunities have you been exposed to as a result of your membership?
AADR has definitely made a positive impact on my career and I am fortunate to been recognized for my research through IADR and AADR awards. Without my membership, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with current research that has been important to my career growth. Attending the meetings, where I have kept abreast of the latest science and communicated my own developments has been very beneficial to my research and graduate teaching.
In your opinion, how has AADR contributed to the research community?
AADR is a very valuable organization for oral health research, and it empowers a community of scientists to stay up-to-date and to get to know each other. I think the organization has very altruistic goals of promoting research in absence of a political agenda. However, the role of AADR in influencing our leaders to support research has been effective so that we, as members, do get involved in advocacy. AADR has been an unbiased provider of science communications to AADR members and members of other organizations, and this is great for the progress of the field.
What would you say to students to encourage them to be involved in AADR?
I would encourage students who are interested in dental research that in addition to joining AADR and the AADR National Student Research Group, join their local student research group and be active in their school associations. Being involved at the local level will better equip them to present their research at AADR meetings and network with other scientists. If research is their passion, pursue it with dentistry, it can be a rewarding career and help to make people healthier.