Research News

UB dental alumnus Tabak named acting NIH director


Published December 17, 2021

“He was very much a dedicated basic scientist who motivated the graduate students and postdocs to strive for a high level of scientific rigor. ”
Frank Scannapieco, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair
Department of Oral Biology
Lawrence Tabak.

UB dental alumnus Lawrence Tabak, who also served on the UB dental faculty during the 1980s, has been named acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to an announcement this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The appointment was made by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Tabak, who currently serves as principal deputy director at the NIH, assumes the role on Dec. 20, and will serve while the administration conducts a search for a successor for Director Francis S. Collins.

“I am so pleased that Dr. Tabak has been named the incoming acting NIH director,” says Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “His appointment is testimony to his successful, distinguished leadership roles within the NIH and commitment to the importance of basic, clinical and translational research. We are proud to have Dr. Tabak as an alumnus of the UB School of Dental Medicine.”

Tabak has held positions at the NIH since 2000, including deputy ethics counselor and director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. He earned a doctoral degree in oral biology in 1981 and an advanced certificate in endodontics in 1985, both from the UB dental school.

Prior to joining the NIH, Tabak was senior associate dean for research and professor of dentistry, biochemistry and biophysics in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester.

His research focuses on the structure, biosynthesis and function of glycoproteins. He continues work in this area, maintaining an active research laboratory within the NIH Intramural Research Program in addition to his administrative duties.

Tabak is a recipient of the 2015 UB Dental Alumni Association Honor Award.

UB dental faculty remember Tabak as a committed scholar.

“I remember Dr. Tabak as a very motivated graduate student with a great commitment to his work on salivary glycoproteins,” says Rosemary Dziak, professor of oral biology and a former instructor of Tabak. “He had a passion for the subject that motivated others to focus on this topic as well. I am very proud that one of the graduates of our PhD program has been appointed to direct our nation’s health research efforts.”

“When I arrived at UB in the 1980s, Larry was an assistant professor who was then building his research program. He worked in close collaboration with Mike Levine (former UB dental school faculty member), who mentored us both, along with a large number of PhD students and postdocs with a focus on the identification and characterization of the important components of saliva,” says Frank Scannapieco, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Oral Biology. “He was very much a dedicated basic scientist who motivated the graduate students and postdocs to strive for a high level of scientific rigor.”

Tabak is an elected member the National Academy of Medicine, and a recipient of the 2016 Shils-Meskin Award from the Dr. Edward B. Shils Entrepreneurial Fund.

He also received a DDS from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree from The City College of New York.