Prof. Sailer, you started a new position at the University of Geneva four years ago. What is new compared with your previous job at the University of Zurich?
Prof. Sailer: In Zurich I was responsible for the laboratory and clinical research in prosthodontics. Today, my most important tasks are the definition of the division’s future mission, its research areas and the teaching, mentoring and supervision of pre- and post-graduate students. Together with my faculty co-workers and biomaterials scientists, we are defining pre-clinical and clinical research collaborations with the aim of establishing an orchestrated future development.
What are your primary current scientific interests concerning clinics and basic research?
Prof. Sailer: The interest on the clinical side is fixed-prosthodontics and dental implantology, tooth-, and implant-supported reconstructions, including all the aspects of digital technology for diagnostics, treatment planning, treatment execution, selection of the material and therapeutic options. Concerning basic research, we benefit from the biomaterials group. Together we are working on translational projects concerning the development of new regenerative procedures, including 3D technologies.
How does the University of Geneva foster your research?
Prof. Sailer: We just moved into a new dental clinic – really a beautiful environment, highly luxurious, with a lot of new equipment for clinical and scientific work. We have research labs for the basic scientists with modern equipment. Recently, a scanning electron microscope was acquired thanks to the sponsorships of the Swiss Society of Dentistry and several local foundations. In addition, the institution offers numerous opportunities to benefit from cutting-edge fundamental research equipment in collaboration with the medical faculty scientists, as micro-computed tomography, microscopy analysis and magnetic resonance imaging. Moreover, we have the equipment to perform biomechanical tests, such as mastication simulation devices, and recently we acquired a 3D-bioprinter.
These research capabilities allowed the beginning of a collaboration between the University of Geneva and Geistlich. On what?
Prof. Sailer: As a first project, we proudly participated in a multicenter study evaluating the performance of Geistlich Fibro-Gide® around dental implants. Prof. Christoph Hämmerle was the principal investigator, so we appreciated this collaboration very much.
Dr. Schäfer: For Geistlich the collaboration with the University of Geneva is entirely new. We are delighted to expand our portfolio of academic partnerships to the French part of Switzerland! Moreover, the proximity of the University of Geneva with Wolhusen offers us a quick connection for discussions linking scientific findings in basic and clinical research. For both sides this is a win-win situation!
You are also interested in Geistlich Bio-Oss® Collagen. Why?
Prof. Sailer: The interest for Geistlich Bio-Oss® Collagen is for several clinical reasons, such as the ease of application. Geistlich Bio-Oss® Collagen can easily be shaped and the application is less technique sensitive than the use of Geistlich Bio-Oss® granules.
Dr. Schäfer: We are interested in understanding Geistlich Bio-Oss® Collagen in more detail: the architecture of the material, how the collagen component incorporates the granules, and how it behaves in vitro and in vivo. This knowledge could provide us with parameters for improving “Geistlich Bio-Oss® Collagen version 2.0,” with even better performances.
What is the goal of the collaboration?
Prof. Sailer: The mutual goal of our collaboration is to evolve the field of regeneration and to exchange expertise and research.
Dr. Schäfer: We would like to establish standardized in vivo pre-clinical models to improve testing meaningfulness. Indeed, it is fundamental that the applied models are validated to obtain reproducible results comparable with pre-defined and stringent criteria. This will ensure the generation of trustworthy data, with proper controls, based on which we can decide if tested new products are safe and perform as expected. Moreover, since Geistlich products are our bench marking products, with these test systems we are able to document and demonstrate, with high confidence, whether a newly developed material meets Geistlich's high quality expectations.
What milestones have been achieved, and what remains to be done?
Prof. Sailer: As in all projects, a preliminary study represents the first milestone. We established the procedures and the respective analytical methods, we started to validate the early results, and then… I would say the sky is the limit (laughs)!
Dr. Schäfer: Once it is clear which models apply, we will start with the “real” investigation. We will draft a detailed plan concerning the biomaterial tested – timelines, experimental groups (controls, and test groups), and animal populations needed for each condition in order to provide proper statistical evaluations and get significant results.
Last question: How do you see your future with Geistlich, and what do you need to continue this fruitful collaboration?
Prof. Sailer: The future will be fruitful for both sides. For us, a further collaboration means access to specific information; the opportunity to evolve further and develop directions in which Geistlich is interested. Moreover, as always and what all universities seek, we need the financial support to pursue our scientific interests. Based on the results we achieve we plan to submit grant proposals to the Osteology Foundation.
Competitive grants, like the one offered by the Osteology Foundation, are highly desirable from the academic point of view. We will certainly apply to other competitive fellowships, and we are regularly collaborating with industry.
Dr. Schäfer: Geistlich will benefit from an exchange of knowledge. On the one hand, we can provide extensive knowledge and experience concerning our marketed biomaterials, collagen and natural bone mineral. On the other hand, the University of Geneva offers clinical expertise, surgical techniques, equipment, and last but not least, the patients' perception of the surgical intervention. Thus, we can develop biomaterials with a translational approach – combining surgical conditions, patient and surgeon expectations, clinical and basic science – all in a 3rd party, objective environment. So everything we need to develop biomaterials appropriately can be realized with such a collaboration!