'Heroes of Chemistry' honored for medical, green chemistry breakthroughs

August 28, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- An antibiotic that fights resistant bacteria, chemotherapy for a rare cancer, methods to make fiber glass and refrigerants more environmentally friendly, a more productive and safer way to transport needed toxic gases, and a drug to fight serious fungal infections are the creations of the 2006 Heroes of Chemistry. The scientists will be honored for these accomplishments in San Francisco on Sept. 10 at the 232nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Twenty-four research chemists were 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 six companies -- ATMI, DuPont, Eli Lilly and Co., Merck & Co., Inc., Rohm and Haas Co., and Wyeth. 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.

"Heroes save lives and change them for the better," said ACS President E. Ann Nalley, Ph.D. "This year's Heroes of Chemistry have improved our lives through their inventions. We at ACS celebrate them and the corporate management that supports innovations that bring the benefits of chemistry to us all, every day."

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 speaker for the 2006 Heroes awards program is Paul Farmer, Ph.D., M.D., medical anthropologist and physician, who has spent his career treating the poor. Following are descriptions of the companies' products and achievements, followed by the names of the 24 people selected as this year's Heroes of Chemistry:

ATMI, Danbury, Conn., developed the Safe Delivery Sources (SDS), which has become the leading commercial product for delivering toxic gases into the semiconductor implant process. Over the years, SDS has been provided by ATMI for enhanced productivity, safe packaging, transport and utilization of extremely toxic gases such as arsine, phosphine and boron trifluoride, each of which is used extensively in the semiconductor industry for ion implantation. Ion implantation is at the center of the integrated circuit fabrication process. The process is so unique that the Department of Transportation has granted a special category for transporting these toxic gases when contained in an SDS package. DuPont, Wilmington, Del., developed hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant blends for the air conditioning and refrigerant industry that are better for the environment than chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), which had been used in the past. CFCs were implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer and a substitute was sought by government and industry. Scientists could not find a single compound that would be a suitable replacement, but DuPont scientists found a number of products, including blends of HFCs, that provided the answer. Today, the blends have been widely adopted by the refrigerant industry around the world as CFCs are being phased out in an effort to protect the environment. Eli Lilly and Co., Indianapolis, Ind., in collaboration with Princeton University, developed ALIMTA, ® (pemetrexed) a chemotherapy drug for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), a very rare cancer of the lung. ALIMTA, ® in combination with cisplatin, is the only agent approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of MPM, associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos. ALIMTA® also has been approved as an effective second line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer and research is underway to test the drug's effectiveness in fighting other tumors, such as small cell lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. In early research, ALIMTA® produced unexpectedly severe side effects in a few patients and the development was almost halted. A team of researchers led by Lilly discovered that giving patients vitamins B12 and folic acid significantly reduced the drug's side effects without negatively impacting its ability to kill cancer cells. Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J., developed CANCIDAS® to treat serious fungal infections. CANCIDAS® is the first of a new class of antifungal agents to reach clinical practice. Unlike its predecessors, the drug specifically prevents the synthesis of an essential component of the cell wall of the most common fungi. The fungicide was initially approved for the treatment of aspergillosis in patients who did not respond to other therapy. Aspergillosis is an often fatal infectious fungal disease that occurs most often in the skin, ears, nasal sinuses and lungs of people with suppressed immune systems. More recently, CANCIDAS® has been used effectively to treat esophageal and other invasive fungal infections and as empirical therapy for presumed fungal infections in febrile neutropenic patients. Rohm and Haas Company, Spring House, Pa., developed AquasetTM acrylic thermosetting binders as green chemistry alternatives to standard binders, many of which release unwanted by-products including phenol, methanol, ammonia and formaldehyde. Used to give shape and strength to nonwoven fibrous materials, thermosetting binders are a primary component of most fiber glass insulation. Unlike many other products on the market, the non-reactive, nonflammable and recyclable AquasetTM technology can be easily and safely transported, stored, applied and cleaned up. The close collaboration between Rohm and Haas Company and Johns Manville on the commercialization of AquasetTM technology resulted in Johns Manville's decision to produce a full line of fiber glass insulation made without formaldehyde or formaldehyde-generating materials. They are the first company in the world to make this dramatic switch. Wyeth, Princeton, N.J., developed Tygacil,TM the first in a new class of antibiotics to overcome bacterial resistance. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is effective against bacteria that cause penicillin-resistant Streptoccus pneumoniae, abdominal infections and complicated skin infections, and works well against strains that carry any of the two major types of tetracycline resistance genes. In addition, Wyeth plans to file for approval to use Tygacil,TM against other resistant pathogens as well as to treat patients who develop pneumonia in the hospital and elsewhere. Thus far, researchers believe that resistance to the new antibiotic is progressing slowly, if at all, and is unlikely to adversely affect its use in treating resistant pathogens in the future.
The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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