“I would definitely apply again for another Osteology Researcher Grant”

The Osteology Foundation has been supporting Ibrahim Ozbolat in his career as a researcher since 2015. Ibrahim is from the United States and is currently working as Hartz Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics. He received grants from the Osteology Foundation in 2015 and 2018. He was also recently awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant and is principal investigator on the project.

The Osteology Foundation asked Ibrahim how his long-term collaboration with the Foundation began in 2015 and how the two Osteology Researcher Grants helped him to obtain the NIH Grant.

OF: When and where was your first contact with the Osteology Foundation?

Ibrahim: One of my current collaborators mentioned that he had received a grant from the Osteology Foundation before 2015. This is how I became aware of the Osteology Foundation and its grants system. When I was at the University of Iowa, before I moved to Penn State, I submitted an abstract for a grant. After I moved to Penn State, I submitted a full grant application and was then awarded the grant in 2015. The title of the study was “In-situ Bioprinting of Composite Tissue Constructs with Gene-activated Matrix for Regeneration of Soft and Hard Tissues in Maxillo and Craniofacial Defects”.

OF: After being awarded the grant in 2015, why did you apply for another Osteology Researcher Grant in 2018? What were your expectations?

Ibrahim: The grant that we applied for in 2018 was different from the one in 2015 in terms of expectations. For the 2015 grant, we investigated the reconstruction of bone and skin in a stratified manner using intraoperative bioprinting technology. This grant helped us to generate new knowledge relating to the reconstruction of hard and soft tissue interfaces. In the meantime, we had also received yet another grant from the US National Science Foundation. This one related to bone regeneration using similar technology to intraoperative bioprinting. Since we had made some progress with bone regeneration, we were looking at translating our research into clinical practice. This was the thinking behind our grant application in 2018, where the aim was to repair bone defects in sheep. The study related to “Intraoperative Bioprinting for Craniofacial Repair on a Large Animal Model". This grant built upon the success of the grant from 2015 as well as the NSF Grant.

OF: How important were the two Osteology Researcher Grants from 2015 and 2018 in securing the NIH Grant? What impact has the Foundation had in general?

Ibrahim: The overall goal is to repair not just bone but also the soft tissue compartment. With the grant in 2015, we investigated bone and skin regeneration together. But now we are more interested in the development of even thicker tissue that has adipose and periosteum layer components. The tissue should also induce vascularization. This forms the basis of the National Institutes of Health grant. We are still working on the grant received in 2018. The 2015 grant provided the necessary data required for the application for the large R01 grant from NIH.

OF: What scientific insights did you gain from the 2015 and 2018 Osteology Foundation studies? How did these findings influence your future research? What impact did they have in the field of 3D-printing?

Ibrahim: The project funded by the grant from 2015 is now complete, and we have recently submitted our findings to a renowned scientific journal. In that study, we demonstrated that we could reconstruct bone and multiple layers of skin tissue directly in composite craniofacial defects in rats. We have learned that bone regeneration in bone-only defects is more substantial compared to bone regeneration in composite defects, owing to lack of vascularization and periosteum. In the new NIH R01 grant, we will aim to induce vascularization in these thick tissues.

 

3D Printed bone constructs loaded with stem cells for craniomaxillofacial reconstruction. Credit: Kerim Moncal, Ozbolat Lab, Penn State
MicroCT images of regenerated bone in rat calvarial defects in 6 weeks using 3D printed scaffolds loaded with rat bone marrow stem cells (rBMSCs) or miRNA-148b transfected rBMSCs. Credit: Ozbolat Lab, Penn State

 

OF: To whom would you recommend the Osteology Researcher Grants? Why? Would you apply again?

Ibrahim: I would recommend Osteology Researcher Grants to researchers in the field of bone regeneration, particularly craniofacial repair, in order to investigate high-impact research problems and generate key data with the aim of securing larger grants. I would definitely apply for another Osteology grant, especially if I have a novel idea for a long-standing problem within research areas of interest to the Foundation.

OF: Please let us know your top three tips and tricks for a successful grant application for young researchers?

Ibrahim: a.) Funding from small feasibility project grants should be used carefully; I would specifically recommend generating key preliminary data for a large grant application rather than performing a thorough study for lower impact work. b.) Always keep an eye on the big picture rather than proposing incremental work. c.) Form a solid team with all the required expertise on board, with complementary skill sets.

OF: Thank you very much for this interesting insights!

Find out more about the two Osteology Researcher Grants awarded to Ibrahim Ozbolat in 2015 and 2018 in the Funded Research Projects section of our website.

Read more about the NIH grant here.