Philip Domenico '72
MVCC’s own 'Dr. Phil' inducted into Rome Science
Hall of Fame in 2014 for his discoveries
When Dr. Philip Domenico ’72 began his college career at MVCC, he never thought he would become a key research scientist in infectious diseases and discover a new class of antimicrobial agents that could save lives all over the world.
But Domenico has done just that – and this summer, the Rome native was inducted in to the Rome Science Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.
“I came from humble beginnings,” he says. “No one ever expected me to amount to anything, and maybe that’s what motivated me most.”
Domenico, who now lives in New York City, returned to Rome for the induction ceremony in June.
“It’s an honor to be a hometown hero,” says Domenico, who describes himself as a microbiologist, nutritionist, writer, artist, philosopher, and armchair warrior. “There are not too many things more important than being recognized by your peers and family. It inspired a confidence that elevated my game to the next level.”
Domenico was recognized for inventing bismuth thiols (BTs) – a class of antimicrobial agents that show potent activity against a broad spectrum of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and microbial biofilms. A “biofilm” – or slime – is a cluster of microorganisms that grows on surfaces, like plaque on teeth, which microbes use to cause infection. His invention has enormous potential: Recently, the FDA granted BTs a special status, the QIDP (Qualified Infectious Disease Product), which means that they consider BTs essential for the welfare of our country. Each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, directly causing at least 23,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Domenico’s BT technology has the potential to save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to antibiotic-resistant infections.
Microbion Biosciences, a clinical stage pharmaceutical company with which Domenico is a consultant, promotes the development of BTs to treat biofilms and “superbugs.”
“We are approaching Phase 2 clinical trials for two applications: orthopedic device infections and chronic wound infections,” Domenico says.
His interest in biology began while he was attending Rome Free Academy.
“Oddly enough, I flunked out of biology in 10th grade, but took it up again as a senior and a much more serious student,” he says. “I did so well in biology and chemistry in my senior year that I decided to pursue them in college. MVCC provided an opportunity to get back on my feet, and show the world I was college material.”
In fact, Domenico did so well at MVCC that he was able to transfer to SUNY Albany.
“MVCC gave me the confidence I needed to compete with the big boys and girls,” he says. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology at Albany in 1975.
Before starting graduate school, Domenico worked as a clinical microbiology lab tech in the Army in the late 1970s. That was when his fascination with slime began.
“My mentor was into bacterial slime and got me involved, long before most microbiologists were even aware of it,” he says. “Even to this day, most physicians don’t understand the impact of slime on the disease process.” So, much of what they did over the last 30 years was to educate people on the topic.
Domenico received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Texas in 1983. He also completed two post-doctoral fellowships, one at Rockefeller University in New York, and the other at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. In 1987, Domenico became research director of infectious diseases at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, Long Island, where he worked for nearly two decades, and was an associate professor at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where he discovered the BT technology. Domenico holds four patents in methods/compositions for inhibiting bacteria, biocides, and anti-inflammatory agents. He has written three books, and published hundreds of articles.
In 2005, he decided to switch careers from microbiology to nutrition, and has been a vitamin formulator and health educator ever since. He has been a science communicator for several vitamin companies, and has written books, abstracts, major publications, research protocols, investigational brochures, and trade articles on various topics in nutrition. Currently, he consults as a science communicator for the health and wellness industry. Domenico has presented his work in microbiology and nutrition globally, and gives talks on various health-related topics throughout the United States. He also writes a popular nutrition blog, which can be found at thescienceofnutritiondotnet.wordpress.com.
“Nutrition was my first love in the health arena,” he says. “I had compiled an encyclopedia on nutrition back in the early 1970s that I never published. Back then, nutrition was more about home economics and cooking than real science. But that changed. And so did I.”
Domenico says that after nearly 30 years, he grew tired of the same focus.
“I was the creative guy who knew a thing or two about bacteria and chemicals,” he says. “I know nothing about business. But, I do love to study nutrition, largely from a chemical perspective, and want to understand how to maintain wellness.”
He and his wife, Gloria, have lived in New York City for 30 years. They occasionally return to the Utica/Rome area, where Domenico’s family still lives. His brother Orin owns Café Domenico on South Genesee Street, a popular hub for coffee, conversation, music, and art.
Like many others in his family, Domenico’s first love is art. He does sculpture and cartooning, mostly. “I’m an amateur, but probably could have been good had I pursued it,” he says. “It was my very first love, but my Dad steered me away from it, claiming it didn’t pay. Still, I’ll likely go back to it in retirement.”
He also has been working on a science-fiction novel about – what else? – slime, which he hopes to publish after the BTs hit the market.
“The story is good, but the writer is still maturing,” he says. “It’s been a labor of love, and it’s getting closer to being a good read.”
Domenico says that when he looks back, he is glad that his life took the twists and turns that it did, and that he can be happy with what he has accomplished.“I can’t even imagine living, especially as long as we do, without some purpose,” he says. “But I’m just a guy, who had a dream, and put his heart and soul into it. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.”