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Marcelo Freire - August 2017

Marcelo Freire, D.D.S., Ph.D., D.M.Sc., is a faculty member at the Forsyth Institute and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He is passionate about human health and the importance of integrating science proven innovations with clinical practices. He has published many papers and book chapters in the field of immunology, periodontology, inflammation and tissue regeneration. Freire is influential scientist in the area of biological innovations with specific focus in leveraging the understanding of endogenous immune response to enhance human healing potential.

Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dr. Freire earned a D.D.S. (2003) before he completed a Ph.D. (2012) at University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Early in his career, Freire worked on developing therapeutic antibodies for infectious diseases and tissue engineering. As a past recipient of Bernart Sarnat Award (IADR) and Balint Orban Award (AAP), Freire is active member of the scientific and clinical community. He was named Presidential Scholar at Harvard University when completing his Doctor of Medical Sciences Periodontology (2016). In 2013, Freire’s lab received seven year funding from NIH Career Development Award (K99/R00).

Freire’s current funding focuses on inflammation and Type 2 diabetes with the goal of identifying disease patterns to help guide understanding of common pathways that are the potential target of diagnosis and therapies. Freire believes that several human conditions are related. Instead of tackling one disease at a time, his goal is to identify common biological pathways present in multiple chronic diseases. He hopes that bringing a multi-disciplinary approach to immunity can help heal chronic diseases and ultimately impact human disparities and global health.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first learned of AADR when I started my Ph.D. in 2007 in the department of craniofacial biology at University of Southern California. I wanted to participate in a community that is interactive and had strong basis in science. My Ph.D. was in the biological field, but my lab was focused on immunology and my thesis was on tissue engineering. All related, but with a flare of multi-disciplinary. I wanted to meet people with cross-disciplinary backgrounds. When I was at my first AADR meeting, I was able to find people with all types of backgrounds and that diversity motivated me to join and continue my membership. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of an AADR membership is that it serves as a research identity. For me, the meetings are an annual reminder of the real impact and purpose of research. Every year, scientists are working on new innovation and ideas, but we all need to get re-fired for the next year. Research requires a very intense focus and requires someone that is passionate. When you realize there is a community out there that is doing similar things, it is certainly rewarding.

I remember one AADR meeting where I presented oral research as a student. I was able to meet Elizabeth Blackburn who was a keynote speaker that year. Later that same year, she became a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine. It was a great inspiration for me to meet speakers that are renowned scientists.

What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
I would like to see curious minds come together to help solve problems. I think AADR is a great stage for crowdsourcing expertise. We have idea generators and we have people that understand global problems. AADR is a place where we could meld information to solve important questions. I’d like to see more cross-disciplinary sessions, chalk talks and mentorship opportunities.

What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
The best way to get involved with AADR is to be a curious person. Be bold. To grow and learn, you need to participate and ask questions about leaders in the field. Even at cocktail hour at meetings there is an opportunity to interact. I think the best way for people to be involved is by being present in the moment. In an era where everyone is using their phones and everyone is “busy” texting, being present is a great privilege.

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
We are in the generation of transdisciplinary research; it’s almost an antidisciplinary era. Researchers working at the interface of multiple fields are able to ask important biological questions. This conversion allows engineers to apply math to biology, allows chemists to design new methods to clinical sciences, allows entrepreneurs to leverage the market’s needs to translate basic science. This combination of expertise enriches research and has the potential for global impact. 

Future dental, oral and craniofacial research has to be very in tune with these new trends and welcome diversity. It is a time of conversion and combining expertise — it’s a fun time to be a researcher. 

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
ind the scientific question that drives you, the question that starts a science that can impact society. We are not always going to find the answers right away, but having questions that wake you up at 4:00 a.m. are a great motivational tool. Find a problem that you are very interested in and that will be your career. Be dynamic!

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