SUNSTAR announces the creation of the “Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology” at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine as a tribute to the world-renowned periodontal researcher

22 October 2020

“$1,000,000 USD endowed chair to support further research on the connection between oral health and systemic health”

In order to honor and further the legacy of the late Dr. Robert J. Genco, a leading figure in the field of oral biology and periodontal medicine and a highly respected advisor to multinational oral healthcare company, the SUNSTAR Group and to the HOSEI GIJUKU Foundation, SUNSTAR has created an endowed fund to be used for recognizing outstanding faculty members at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (UB).

Funded by a $1,000,000 USD commitment, the gift will establish a new faculty position, to be called the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology. The fund will recognize and support faculty members who are not only gifted teachers but also scholars, researchers and applied learning innovators and who facilitate medical and dental collaboration in oral biology and periodontal medicine in the University’s School of Dental Medicine.

The Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology will promote new advances in periodontal research, education, and outreach by providing critical resources to further cutting-edge scholarship and research. In the long term, this investment will enhance UB’s capacity to attract and nurture distinguished leaders in the field and provide a benchmark for the caliber of faculty UB seeks to recruit in the future. The ability to attract more outstanding faculty to UB’s ranks will yield better educational outcomes for students, while at the same time increase UB’s capacity to conduct patient-centered research, share results with the global community, develop new ideas and discoveries, and attract new sources of funding. The holder of the endowed chair may also serve as a liaison between Sunstar and UB to further continue Dr. Genco’s research legacy.

As stated by Mr. Yasuhiro Katsuragi, Executive Director of the SUNSTAR Foundation: “We are privileged to create this important tribute to Dr. Genco in order to mark his collaboration with SUNSTAR, which recognised the integral relationship between oral health and systemic health for over three decades. Together, SUNSTAR, UB and Dr. Genco shared a drive to continue the exploration of periodontal health and deliver new research, ideas and discoveries to benefit researchers, dentists and millions of people worldwide.”

For more than three decades, researchers from the SUNSTAR Group and UB have enjoyed a highly productive relationship, linked by a commitment to exploring the integral relationship between oral and systemic health. SUNSTAR was a pioneer in championing the idea that oral health has a deep connection to the health of the whole body; UB broke important ground in this area by establishing the first Department of Oral Biology and creating the first doctoral program in this domain.

The shared vision and collaboration of SUNSTAR’s distinguished chairman Hiroo Kaneda and UB faculty member Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD have helped establish SUNSTAR and UB as leaders in oral health. Driven by a desire to explore modern periodontal concepts, Chairman Kaneda sent a series of talented young researchers to UB to work in the university’s laboratories and clinics, and to bring back to SUNSTAR new ideas for products and educational materials. SUNSTAR and UB’s research and training collaborations have flourished over the years, and SUNSTAR is honored to continue partnering with UB to develop and share oral health innovations with researchers, clinicians, and consumers.

Joseph j. Zambon DDS, PhD, State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor and Dean of the School of Dental Medicine notes, “I had the honor of being a student and colleague of Dr. Genco for forty years. I also had the good fortune to work with many outstanding young reseachers from SUNSTAR early in my career. The more than thirty-year collaboration between SUNSTAR and UB culminating in the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology is a fitting tribute to the person who shared Chairman Kaneda’s vision and made it a reality.”

Naming an endowed chair for Dr. Robert J. Genco is most fitting, as it is a high honor accorded by UB and reserved for the most distinguished faculty. Until his death last year, Dr. Genco was a State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Periodontics and Microbiology at UB, and served as Chair of the Department of Oral Biology for 25 years. He directed the university’s Periodontal Disease Clinical Research Center and its new SUNSTAR Center for Microbiome Research.

An early innovator in studying the impact that oral health has on overall wellness, Dr. Genco and his colleagues were among the first researchers to report a connection between periodontal disease and heart disease and stroke. He also led studies connecting periodontitis to diabetes and obesity, as shared with the international community via symposia organized by the Joslin-Sunstar Diabetes Education Initiative. He earned numerous awards throughout his career, including the 2016 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Association for Dental Research.

Dr. Genco was a member of the National Academy of Medicine – one of the three national academies of science – a singular distinction awarded only to the most outstanding scientists. He served as Chair of the SUNSTAR Foundation’s World Periodontal Research Awards Selection Committee and led the selection of SUNSTAR’s first Periodontal Link Award, which seeks to increase public awareness to the relationship between oral and general health. He also held editorial positions with 11 scientific journals, edited or co-edited 10 books, and authored more than 325 scientific articles and publications.

Hiroo Kaneda and Dr Genco at the beginning of their relationship

Hiroo Kaneda and Dr Genco over the years