Public Release: 

'Heroes of Chemistry' honored for medical, energy, environmental breakthroughs

American Chemical Society

BOSTON - An improved antipsychotic medicine, a cost-effective, environmentally friendly polyester production process, a new treatment for patients with iron-overload from transfusions, a new method using corn instead of petrochemicals to create numerous products and a process that improves packaging for food are the inventions of the 2007 Heroes of Chemistry. The scientists will be honored for these accomplishments in Boston on Aug. 19 at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Twenty-two research chemists will be named Heroes of Chemistry by the ACS for improving health and well-being by creating new drugs or other products and inventing environmentally friendly and more effective technologies. The awards specifically honor "chemical innovators whose work has led to the welfare and progress of humanity" in a significant way in the past decade.

The scientists were part of multidisciplinary teams representing Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, DuPont, with partners Genencor International and Tate & Lyle, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Novartis AG and Pfizer Inc. Individuals are nominated by their companies and the winners are chosen by an ACS panel in recognition of industrial work that has lead to the successful development and commercial sale of a technological product.

"Our Heroes of Chemistry this year represent the very best in scientific innovation," said ACS President Catherine T. Hunt, Ph.D. "We at ACS applaud them and their corporate management for improving our lives through chemistry in so many ways."

The Heroes of Chemistry program, started in 1996 by the ACS, honors industrial chemists and chemical engineers who create commercially successful products that improve the quality of life.

The keynote address at the awards ceremony will be given by Dean Kamen, an inventor and entrepreneur, recipient of the National Medal of Technology and founder of DEKA Research & Development, which develops technologies that enhance the quality of life. Following are descriptions of the companies' products and achievements and the names of the 22 people selected as this year's Heroes of Chemistry:

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, The Woodlands, Texas, developed the Selective 1-Hexene Process (S1H), a revolutionary process used to manufacture hexene, a critical component used in making polyethylene, a plastic resin used to produce plastic pipe, film, detergent bottles and food and beverage containers. S1H is the first and only commercial process to selectively produce comonomer grade 1-hexene from ethylene, thereby revolutionizing alpha olefin technology. In fact, the process yields 93 percent selectivity to 1-hexene with world-class product purity. The 1-hexene co-monomer improves polyethylene, making it an ideal product for packaging foods and allowing for the safe and economical shipment and storage of food products around the world.

  • Ronald D. Knudsen, Ph.D., is a former senior research associate at Chevron Phillips Chemical and is now a senior consultant for the company. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Brigham Young University in 1974.

DuPont, Wilmington, Del., with partners Genencor International, Palo Alto, Calif., and Tate & Lyle, Decatur, Ill., developed a new method to use corn instead of petrochemicals to produce propanediol (PDO), which can be formulated into a number of industrial products. Bio-PDO™, a key ingredient in the production of DuPont™ Sorona®, a new renewably sourced DuPont polymer for clothing, carpeting, plastics and other products, uses 30-40 percent less energy than petroleum-based PDO. Bio-PDO™ is also being marketed as a glycol replacement in formulations ranging from aircraft de-icing to cosmetics and is the key ingredient in DuPont's newest polymer family, DuPont™ Cerenol™ polyols. Production of 100 million pounds of Bio-PDO™ is saving 10 million gallons of gasoline a year.

  • Dennis M. Adkesson is a process engineer with Tate & Lyle, N.A., A.E. Stanley Manufacturing Company, Decatur, Ill. He received a B.S. in science engineering from Northwestern University in 1970.
  • Catherine H. Babowicz is a process engineer at DuPont. She received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1976.
  • Charles E. Nakamura, Ph.D., is a biochemist at DuPont. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Brandeis University in 1986.
  • Gregory M. Whited, Ph.D., is a microbiologist at Genecor International, Palo Alto, Calif. He received a Ph.D. in microbiology from The University of Texas at Austin in 1986.

ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Fairfax, Va., developed PxMax™, the world's most selective catalytic process for producing para-xylene, a hydrocarbon and key component in the world's most important polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET has myriad uses, including woven materials in clothing and home furnishing, containers, LCD's, films and coatings. PxMax™ dramatically reduces the cost of producing para-xylene. It also has environmental benefits as the process generates less waste and significantly reduces energy needed to produce para-xylene.

  • Jeevan S. Abichandani, Ph.D., is the Research and Development Manager at Univation, an ExxonMobil joint venture. He received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982.
  • Jeffrey S. Beck, Ph.D., is manager of Corporate Strategic Research at ExxonMobil. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989.
  • Art Chester, Ph.D., has retired as a senior scientific advisor at ExxonMobil. He received a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Michigan State University in 1966.
  • Tom Degnan, Ph.D., is manager, Breakthrough and Leads Generation at ExxonMobil. He received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 1976.
  • Jocelyn Kowalski is a consultant to ExxonMobil's Catalyst Technology group. She received an M.S. in ceramic engineering from Rutgers University in 1989.
  • Sharon McCullen, Ph.D., is an attorney with Morgan Lewis in Philadelphia, Pa. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1982.
  • David Olson, Ph.D., has retired, having worked in ExxonMobil's Central Research Laboratory for more than 35 years. He received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Iowa State University in 1963.

Novartis AG, Basel, Switzerland, developed Exjade® (deferasirox) as a new treatment to help patients who get an iron overload from blood transfusions. A breakthrough in removing excess iron from the blood (chelation therapy), Exjade is given once-daily as a drink. Iron chelation is often necessary to prevent potentially life-threatening complications of excess iron in patients who receive regular blood transfusions for diseases such as thalassemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, sickle cell disease and other anemias. Tens of thousands of children and adults around the world have these diseases. For many, the need for transfusions and chelation are life-long. A single dose of Exjade works throughout the entire day, removing excess iron -- including highly toxic labile plasma (unbound) iron -- from key organs such as the liver and heart.

  • Pierre Acklin, Ph.D., was Head, Analytical and Imaging Sciences for the Discovery Technology department at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He received his Ph.D. from the ETH Zurich, in 1991. He died in April of 2006.
  • Peter Bühlmayer, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist and Program Team Head in the department of Autoimmunity and Transplantation at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He received his Ph.D. in 1979 from the University of Basel.
  • Bernard Faller, Ph.D., leads the Preclinical Profiling Unit at the Basel site within the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Strasbourg, France, in 1991.
  • René Lattmann, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Investigator at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He received his Ph.D. from the ETH Zurich, in 1983.
  • Hanspeter Nick, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist at Novartis. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Bern in 1983.
  • Carsten Spanka, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Investigator at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Hamburg in 1991.
  • Paul Zbinden was formerly a Lab Head at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research until 2002, when he moved to Solvias, where he works now as a Project Leader in the Business Unit Contract Synthesis. He received his basic education as laboratory technician at the former J.R. Geigy AG (1959-1963).

Pfizer Inc, Groton, Conn., developed Geodon®, which was approved by the FDA in 2001. It is an atypical (second generation) antipsychotic medicine that offers dosing flexibility, proven efficacy and a favorable side-effect profile: Unlike many other atypical antipsychotics, Geodon® does not cause weight gain on long-term therapy, which is a significant advantage. Also marketed under the trademark Zeldox™, Geodon® is available in more than 85 markets. It became the fastest growing atypical antipsychotic in the U.S. market in 2006 and had worldwide sales in that year of $758 million.

  • Harry R. Howard, Jr., who is retired, was an associate research fellow at Pfizer, Inc. He received his M.S. in chemistry from St. Joseph College, West Hartford, Conn. in 1985.
  • John A. Lowe III, Ph.D., is a senior research fellow at Pfizer Inc. He received a Ph.D. in synthetic chemistry from UCLA in 1977.
  • Arthur A. Nagel, Ph.D., is a retired principal research investigator and research advisor with Pfizer Inc. He received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.

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