Public Release: 

Wilmington researchers receive award for using chemistry to protect food supply

American Chemical Society

W. Mark Barbour, Ph.D., Mark A. Jensen, Ph.D., George Tice and Susan Tseng of DuPont in Wilmington, Del., will be recognized Sunday, August 18, by the world's largest scientific society for developing a system that can detect harmful pathogens in our food supply.

The DuPont team will be honored as Heroes of Chemistry at the American Chemical Society's 224th national meeting in Boston, along with chemists and chemical engineers from DSM N.V., DuPont and Solutia Inc. Retired U.S. Air Force General Brent Scowcroft will speak at the event about what it means to be a hero in today's changing world.

"These chemical innovators have significantly contributed to the protection and security of our world with commercial technologies that detect, prevent, alleviate or remediate threats to our health and safety," said Eli Pearce, president of the American Chemical Society. "The chemical advances made by these men and women serve as testimonials to the valuable role chemists and chemical engineers play in improving our lives. It is with pride that the Society recognizes them as Heroes of Chemistry."

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government has become increasingly concerned about the safety of the nation's food supply. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food-borne bacteria cause more than 76 million illnesses each year.

The BAX® system developed by the DuPont team employs a common technique used for studying DNA -- called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) -- to detect harmful bacteria such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella and Listeria strains. The system is designed to identify the pathogen's DNA using genetic information from food ingredients or a test sample. Technicians can prepare samples and run the automated system with little training.

According to DuPont, the BAX system can detect bacteria in just five hours, something that would take an additional three to four days with manual testing. DuPont estimates that the system reduces the reporting time for negative L. monocytogenes samples by one day and negative Salmonella samples by two days. It also reduces the occurrence of false positives for E. coli.

The BAX system has brought PCR into routine use in the food industry and has set a new standard for food testing. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service -- which tests and regulates meat production for the United States and is considered the standard for food safety around the world -- recently adopted the BAX system. In addition, seven of the 10 largest global food companies have added the system to their food safety programs. The system is being adapted to detect viral and bacterial diseases in livestock.

The Heroes of Chemistry program, started in 1996, honors industrial chemists and chemical engineers who create commercially successful products that improve the quality of life. The theme of the awards changes annually; this year, the program recognizes technologies that protect and secure our world.


W. Mark Barbour, Ph.D., is a senior microbiologist at DuPont Qualicon in Wilmington, Del. He received a Ph.D. in microbiology from North Carolina State University in 1988.

Mark A. Jensen, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist at Agilent Technologies in Centerville, Del. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1973 and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1977. He resides in West Chester, Pa.

George Tice is a senior development biochemist at DuPont Qualicon in Wilmington, Del. He received a B.S. in nutrition from Rutgers University in 1976 and a M.S. in nutrition from Drexel University.

Susan Tseng is a senior research biochemist at DuPont Central Research and Development in Newark, Del. She received a M.S. in immunology and microbiology from Duke University in 1974. She resides in Hockessin, Del.

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