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New grant pioneered by Nick Jacobson with help from Kristen Lowe, DDS, MS, innovate nasoalveolar molding with the intent of improving treatment accessibility.

In an exciting collaboration, Jacobson and Lowe have received a grant from Align Technologies, the company responsible for Invisalign. The grant will support their work in developing the ability to increase access to a critical treatment for infants with cleft lip and palate.  Nicholas Jacobson, a clinical design researcher at CU Anshutz Inworks Innovation Initiative, known for his immersive approach to clinical research, has been developing a unique set of solutions with a multi-disciplinary team. His team comprises computational designers, medical students, and the expertise of academy award winning stop motion animation studio LAIKA. 

Spirit of Collaboration and Innovation

The collaboration between Dr. Lowe, who currently treats infants with the congenital craniofacial anomaly through a process called nasoalveolar molding (NAM) and Jacobson is unique to the Anschutz Medical Campus and speaks to the campuses push for innovation.  In recent years, the campus has encouraged, celebrated, and supported high-risk high-reward clinical innovations which has kept the Inworks team very busy. ‘The ecosystem that has been created on this campus has made it easier for innovative projects like this to succeed, which is now starting to show the payoff and it’s very exciting’ said Jacobson.

Focus on Access

While effective, NAM is currently a laborious process that requires a dental impression be taken of the infant for appliance fabrication, followed by weekly office visits over the course of months for assessment and adjustments by a specially trained orthodontist.  In their research funded by Align, the pair plan to develop a fully digital method for NAM that uses an intraoral scanning device to capture an optical impression of the infant’s mouth and produce a set of 3-D printed NAM devices that can be inserted by parents at home.  Currently, Dr. Lowe see’s patients from as far away as Montana, who fly in weekly for treatment and there are countless others who forgo treatment do to the distance. Through distributed manufacturing the team hopes that this process will be able to provide the treatment anywhere an intraoral scanner is available.

Progress on the Horizon

Currently Jacobson and Lowe are enrolling patients in a clinical trial to collect data that will help to streamline and standardize the digital NAM process to make it more accessible and less expensive. To determine the effectiveness of a digital model, a randomized trial will assign newborns diagnosed with cleft lip and palate to either a traditional manual NAM process or a digital, 3-D printed process. All other care will remain constant.

“Align Technology is honored to be able to continue providing funding that enables universities around the globe to better understand the science involved in the field of dentistry and orthodontic treatment,” said Dr. Mitra Derakhshan, Align senior vice president, global clinical.

About Align Technology, Inc.

Align Technology designs and manufactures the Invisalign® system, the most advanced clear aligner system in the world, iTero™ intraoral scanners and services, and exocad™ CAD/CAM software. These technology building blocks enable enhanced digital orthodontic and restorative workflows to improve patient outcomes and practice efficiencies for over 217 thousand doctor customers and is key to accessing Align’s 500 million consumer market opportunity worldwide. Align has helped doctors

treat over 12.8 million patients with the Invisalign system and is driving the evolution in digital dentistry through the Align Digital Platform, our integrated suite of unique, proprietary technologies and services delivered as a seamless, end-to-end solution for patients and consumers, orthodontists and GP dentists, and lab/partners. Visit for more information.

For additional information about the Invisalign system or to find an Invisalign doctor in your area, please visit


CU Denver Engineering, Design and Computing View All

At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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