Richard Lamont, Ph.D., a professor in the UF College of Dentistry Department of Oral Biology, recently received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an honor bestowed on less than 5 percent of NIH-funded investigators.
The highly selective NIH MERIT Award (Method to Extend Research in Time) recognizes researchers who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity in research endeavor and provides long-term support to investigators with impressive records of scientific achievement in research areas of special importance or promise.
In January Lamont initially received a five-year, $2.4 million grant for his study, “P. Gingivalis Interactions with Gingival Epithelial Cells,” which investigates the molecular dialog between oral bacteria and host cells and has yielded groundbreaking insights into the bacterial lifestyle within humans. Study of the subgingival epithelial interface, the work for which he received the MERIT award, has fundamentally changed the appreciation of the role of bacteria in maintaining oral health and contributing to oral disease.
In May Lamont was notified that the original award had been named a MERIT Award, which essentially upgrades his grant from a five-year to a ten-year term, and guarantees additional funding during the second five-year phase of the study.
With only 5 percent of all NIH-funded investigators receiving a MERIT Award since its inception in 1987, the percentage of dental research investigators who have received MERIT Awards is very low. In fact, the only other UF College of Dentistry researcher who has received one was Kenneth Anusavice, D.M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for research and a professor and chairman of the Department of Dental Biomaterials, in 1994.
Lamont joined the college in 2002, having been at the University of Washington in Seattle since 1989 where he was a professor.
“I relocated to UF because the College of Dentistry provides one of the strongest environments in the country for oral microbiological research, and the Oral Biology Department has been immensely supportive of my program,” Lamont said.
In 1982 Lamont earned his undergraduate degree with honors in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He went on to receive his Ph.D. Bacteriology from the University of Aberdeen in Ireland in 1985. From there he came to the United States where he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
More on the MERIT Award
Initiated in 1987, the MERIT Award program extends funding to experienced researchers who have superior grants and who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to and success in research. The principal feature of the program is the opportunity for such investigators to gain up to ten years of grant support. The MERIT Awards are intended to provide such investigators with long-term, stable support to foster their continued creativity and spare them some of the administrative burdens associated with frequent preparation and submission of research grant applications.