Ohio researcher receives national award

August 17, 2000

Pioneered addition of fluoride to toothpaste

M. David Francis of Wyoming, Ohio, will be honored on August 20 by the world's largest scientific society for his pioneering role in developing fluoride additives for toothpaste, bone-strengthening pharmaceuticals and other medical products. He will be designated one of 12 Heroes of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society at its 220th national meeting, in Washington, D.C.

"My original work was in dentistry," said Francis, a physical biochemist who began a career with Proctor & Gamble in 1952. Products based on his findings include two of the most widely used toothpastes: Advanced Formula Crest and Tartar Control Crest.

In nominating him for the award, Joel Shulman, P&G's external affairs manager, wrote: "Dr. Francis' research on the chemistry of tooth enamel structure and formation, and on the mechanism by which the fluoride ion interferes with the destruction of tooth enamel and dentin, played a role in the widespread adoption of fluoride therapies throughout the United States and the world." Shulman noted that cavities among U.S. children have dropped 80 percent since 1967.

"When we found out how [such additives] operated on dental enamel, it was a small jump to see the same thing happen with bone," said Francis. His efforts led to new compounds called bisphosphonates, which treat a variety of bone diseases.

The body constantly recycles its skeletal structure, breaking down old bone tissue and replacing it with new. In disorders like Paget's disease, however, resorption and formation are accelerated, and bones become soft, porous and misshapen.

One of Francis' discoveries, marketed as Didronel, bonds to bone surfaces to slow bone resorption and allow for normal formation. It is approved in 26 countries to help stop age-related bone loss, or osteoporosis. A related product, Osteoscan, is used to delineate patients' bone structure. The bisphosphonate molecule carries a radioisotope "tag," technetium-99m, through the bloodstream to active bone sites and emits gamma rays that a detector translates into an image.

"The first time we saw that it was exciting, to put it mildly," said Francis.
-end-
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.

8/9/00 #12850

A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.




American Chemical Society

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