Member Profile: Ann Beal Salamone (NAE), Chairman of the Board, Rochal Industries
TAMEST Member Ann Beal Salamone (NAE) is the Chairman of the Board at Rochal Industries, a San Antonio biomedical research company that has developed and licensed a number of new biomaterials for wound and burn care.
Although Mrs. Salamone got her start as a polymer chemist in the electronics industry, a 1980s recession in the Boston area would change her career trajectory forever. Along with a group of fellow scientists, Mrs. Salamone left the electronics industry and instead utilized her polymer expertise to develop products in beauty care and wound care, which both seemed “recession-proof” at the time.
She co-founded Rochal Industries in 1986 and she now holds more than 25 U.S. patents/applications and has developed products for electronics, water purification, personal care and healthcare.
Though she moved her company to Texas with her late husband and Rochal Industries Co-Founder, Joseph C. Salamone, Ph.D. (NAE), originally to be closer to their daughter who attended medical school in the state, she says the company has made San Antonio home thanks to its thriving support of science and collaboration. She is a proud member of TAMEST and currently serves as the Technology Innovation Subcommittee Chair for the 2021 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Selection Committee.
TAMEST spoke to Mrs. Salamone to learn more about her life and work and how the 2021 O’Donnell Awards committee is continuing their work amidst COVID-19.
- How has COVID-19 affected your work?
Social distancing is mandatory in my view and in March when San Antonio companies understood what was happening, we sent everyone home. We are lucky to have always been a company with roughly 10 employees. This has enabled us to keep three scientists safely socially distanced in the lab and allowed the rest of us to work from home.
However, COVID-19 has made a huge difference when it comes to the impetus of our projects. We’ve had to streamline what we are doing with additional products in the pipeline.
- What products are you working on?
We’ve increased our testing on one of our products we licensed to Sanara MedTech, BIAKŌS antimicrobial skin and wound cleanser, designed to remove harmful debris, including microbes, from wounds. Rochal has initial research showing its effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 and we are continuing to do research along those lines.
We have also been very fortunate to receive federal funding this year to conduct research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded us a Phase I SBIR grant to develop the science for a new product for protection of skin tears, which kicked off in early June. We also have pending funding from the Navy for clinical trials utilizing the BIAKŌS technology.
- How did you first hear about TAMEST and get involved?
I was stunned and very honored to become a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and thus TAMEST, in 2016. As you can imagine, being an industrial person, I can only assume the people who nominated me and took my nomination through the process were aware of what I did and the work I have done.
However, I actually first met TAMEST a few years prior when my husband Joseph Salamone, Ph.D. (NAE), was inducted into the NAE. At our first TAMEST meeting, Joe was formally introduced as a new TAMEST member by the president of his company as was the custom at that time. I was the president of the company, so I got to introduce Joe to the TAMEST crowd. It was lovely and really a lot of fun.
- What do you like about TAMEST?
I enjoy the camaraderie and discussions at TAMEST. It’s one of the best organizations in the world. TAMEST allows members to learn new things, opens your mind to hearing about completely different fields and it is an intimate enough group, meaning hundreds and not thousands of people attend TAMEST meetings, so you really have an opportunity for some significant conversation. You get to know people and you learn new things and you share things that could evolve into even better science.
What TAMEST is doing and has done makes a difference in our ecosystem. The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison did a beautiful job in creating TAMEST and so did everyone who followed in her path to make it sustainable.
- Why do you volunteer with the Technology Innovation Award Subcommittee?
The crucial part of the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards is that recipients be in the early stages of their careers. The value for all of us is that the awards process allows for a high level of creativity to be shared among TAMEST members.
I have to say that every O’Donnell awardee that I have had the pleasure of hearing or meeting over the last several years has provided information and knowledge that I wouldn’t have had before. On top of that, I’ve been able to share with them my own knowledge when it is relevant.
Passing this kind of information back and forth and creating a knowledge base to be able to address significant issues, like COVID-19, global infectious disease and climate change is paramount. It is only by all of us working together to do the best that we can that we’re going to have an outcome that is tenable.
- The selection process for the O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation requires several site visits and interviews. How has that changed this year given the global pandemic?
The value of the Technology Innovation site visit is critically important in being able to make a final decision as to who should receive the award. Texas is a big state and the finalists are usually spread out across it.
This year, the site visits have been done virtually and it has worked out well. In fact, I’ve found them much more efficient. Doing site visits virtually has allowed us to conduct “on-site” interviews and spend quality time with the people we are interviewing without time away for travel or from other priorities. I view virtual site visits as a value and will encourage it to continue.
The only component lacking is the normal discussion that usually happens before, during breaks, and after the meeting, which I do miss. However, when it comes to the functionality of the committee, everything is going very well.
- What do you think people don’t realize about industry scientists?
It’s probably surprising, but if you pulled the statistics, you’d find many more scientists in industry than in academia – the percentage was 90 percent in industry. The number of researchers that are conducting basic and applied research for companies in this country far outnumbers the number of researchers in academic settings.
The key difference is the amount of public-facing knowledge about industry scientists. They predominantly publish their research and engineering work in the form of patents and not academic journals. Industry scientists also rarely give public presentations. On a good note, many more collaborations are occurring across the world between academic, government and industry scientists that are producing truly revolutionary new science and the products from that science.