University at Buffalo dental school receives $1M to establish endowed chair in oral biology

Buffalo, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo announced Oct. 21 that it received $1 million from Sunstar Group to establish an endowment fund in honor of the late Dr. Robert J. Genco, a leading periodontal researcher who was known as the “father of oral science.”

Photo of Dr. Genco
Dr. Genco
The Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair in Oral Biology will be a new faculty position that recognizes and supports faculty who are also scholars, researchers, and applied learning innovators, and who facilitate medical and dental collaboration in oral biology and periodontal medicine at the dental school, according to a news release.
It’s named after Dr. Genco, who received the ADA’s 2003 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research and the 1991 ADA Gold Medal for Excellence in Dental Research. Dr. Genco died in March 2019 at age 80.
According to an ADA News story, when Dr. Genco accepted the Gold Medal at that year's annual meeting, he said, "I am proud of the research that drives the dental profession. We face serious challenges in the dental profession — and science is the answer."
The new endowed fund under Dr. Genco’s name is a fitting tribute to the 40-plus-year relationship he spearheaded for the University of Buffalo and the Japan-based, multinational oral health care company Sunstar, which led to numerous advancements in periodontal health, according to the university.
“Dr. Genco guided Sunstar’s research and development at UB, and we sincerely appreciated his long-term support, friendship and trust. He holds a special place in our hearts,” said Mayumi Kaneda, Sunstar Foundation director, in a news release. “He was a visionary with science and technology and our chairman, my father Hiroo Kaneda, is a visionary with business and society — the two had a special bond. Together with UB, we hope this funding will help the dental profession better and more widely interact with the medical industry and bioinformatics for the improvement of global public health.”
The endowed fund established by Sunstar also is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) Scholars of Excellence program, a giving incentive program funded by SUNY that supplements philanthropic investments to create endowed chairs and professorships and enable SUNY institutions to fill these roles more expeditiously.
A SUNY distinguished professor of oral biology, periodontics and microbiology, Dr. Genco had also served as UB Microbiome Center director, department of oral biology chair, and UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach vice provost. The Journal of Dental Research described him as the “father of oral science.”
Some of Dr. Genco's recent studies included examining the link between periodontitis and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, as well as searching for clues that oral health in pregnant women may affect fetal health.

“I was so excited when I heard the news and all I could think of was how proud Bob would be — he always liked to recognize people for their hard work,” said Dr. Genco’s widow, Frances. “I hope when people hear about this fund, they’ll honor what Bob stood for and will uphold his attitude not just about science, but about helping people. I’m very thankful to the Sunstar team, as I know they loved Bob and respected his work and his life and they all pitched in to make this happen.”

The school anticipates that the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowed Chair will be appointed within the next year.