Cincinnati chemist wins national award for medical contributions

Chemist Leland C. Clark Jr. of Cincinnati, Ohio, has been honored by the world's largest scientific society for his diverse contributions toward the development of artificial blood, liquid ventilation, new burn treatments and other medical products. He received the 2001 Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry from the American Chemical Society during its Winter Fluorine Conference in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla.

The most famous image associated with Clark's fluorine research is arguably a mouse, completely submerged in a beaker of liquid but perfectly healthy. The liquid is an oxygen and carbon dioxide carrier, a fluorocarbon later featured in the deep-sea dive of the 1989 movie, "The Abyss."

All research conducted by Clark, a professor of chemistry at Antioch College, centers around the fluorine atom. Because it is so small and reactive, "it has a marriage that lasts forever with carbon," he explained. "Part of the medical benefit is that fluorocarbons are so inert they can go to and from the body without harming it."

In a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, the chemist's achievements are equally widespread. His discoveries have led to the first practical heart-lung machine, the Clark electrode to measure oxygen levels quickly in blood, surgical techniques to reattach the eye's retina, agents to image tumors and heart-attack damage, topical medicines to speed healing of burns and other advances.

His liquid-ventilation techniques can help premature infants breathe until their lung tissue develops properly.

Clark said he has liked chemistry ever since grade school. "Everything about chemistry seemed like magic to me - and it still does," he noted. "The most magical aspect is that you can use chemistry to help people."

That is why he advocates appropriate animal research. "Animal-rights groups have stopped medical research that should be going on. I couldn't have done the work I did without using animals," he said. '"/>

Contact: Rodney Pearson
American Chemical Society

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