Mark Roman, PhD, the founder of Tampa Bay Analytical Research (TBAR) and a widely respected analytical chemist, passed away on May 8, 2014, after battling lung cancer. Dr. Roman was dedicated to creating the highest quality standards, analytical methods, and ethical marketing practices for herbs and dietary supplements, and to elevating the integrity of botanical materials and products. His death came as a shock to friends and members of the industry, as he had only recently made the news of his declining health public. He was 46 years old.
Born in 1967 in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Roman earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Delaware in 1989 and his PhD in chemistry from the University of Rhode Island in 1993. He pursued a career in chemistry throughout his adult life, starting as an analytical chemist at various laboratories and eventually working his way up to becoming the director of research and development at Chromadex in 2000 before founding Tampa Bay Analytical Research in 2006.
At the time of his death, he was a member of the United States Pharmacopeia’s General Chapters – Chemical Analysis Experts Committee. He also worked closely with the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) International, serving as both member and chair of the AOAC International Methods Committee on Dietary Supplements and as a study director and co-director on two collaborative studies.1 His work as study director for the AOAC ephedra method2,3 earned him the title of AOAC Study Director of the Year in 2004, and he was named a Fellow of AOAC in 2009.
“Mark was a very honest and genuinely nice man,” wrote Joseph Betz, PhD, director of the Analytical Methods & Reference Materials Program at the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the US National Institutes of Health (email to M. Blumenthal, July 14, 2014). “He also brought a solid scientific underpinning and a ruthless integrity to his lab work and his writing…. Mark’s numerous innovations in dietary supplement analysis and the energy and dedication he brought to his volunteer work at [the United States Pharmacopeia] and AOAC earned him respect and awards of recognition.”
Dr. Roman’s work at TBAR brought him into close contact with industry, government, and academic professionals as he worked to improve analytical method development and method validation for botanical materials and supplements. His goal as president and technical director was to raise quality expectations within the industry and promote consumer confidence in their dietary supplements.
He provided method development and validation, contract analysis, training, consulting, and expert testimony on behalf of his clients, including a partnership with Blaze Science Industries, LLC, on a government contract from ODS for method optimization and validation for testing methylsulphonylmethane (MSM). MSM, a sulfur compound, has been marketed (often in conjunction with glucosamine and chondroitin) as a supplement for osteoarthritis support.4
“We worked on many projects together over the years and I could always count on him to do top notch science and get the job done. He was dedicated to our industry,” wrote Jana Hildreth, technical director and CEO of Blaze Science Industries (email, July 9, 2014). “It was not until his passing that his family realized the magnitude of his accomplishments upon finding all the awards, publications and certificates of appreciation that Mark received over the years that were neatly tucked away in his home office.”
In his personal life, friends remember Dr. Roman as loyal and dependable with a great sense of humor. He enjoyed home-brewing his own beer and often brought his brews to local meetings for colleagues to sample. In addition, he was described by Hildreth as a “closet artist,” of which few people were aware. “He did an awesome rendition of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover that I thought was a lithograph when he first showed it to me,” she wrote.
“His passing has left a big hole in the community as well as in our hearts,” Hildreth continued, “but we can keep his memory alive by continuing the efforts he started geared towards improving the quality of dietary supplements.”
“I could only imagine the hundreds of people that in one way or another were touched by Mark’s work, his words, or deeds,” wrote James Neal-Kababick, director of Flora Research Laboratories and AOAC Fellow (email to M. Blumenthal, May 8, 2014). “Mark was not only a brilliant analytical chemist but he was a very kind and helping person who always made time for a colleague in need or an up-and-coming new scientist having trouble or challenges at the bench…. I think the best way that we can all honor Mark is to continue his ways of excellence in science, dedication to the industry, and remembering to help our fellow colleagues even when we’re pretty busy.”
“I like to think he is in a better place,” wrote Neal-Kababick at a later date (email, July 9, 2014). “Perhaps in chemist heaven, there is no profit-driven science and there is infinite time for experiments conducted if for no other reason than the desire to know. If so, I am sure Mark is there.”
Mark Roman is survived by his parents, Nicholas and Ida Roman; his brothers, John, Jim, and Stephen Roman; and a niece and nephew. The family held a funeral service on May 12, 2014, in Florida before laying him to rest in his home state of Pennsylvania.
- Personnel. Tampa Bay Analytical Research website. Available at: www.tampabayanalytical.com/personnel.html. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Roman MC. Determination of ephedrine alkaloids in botanicals and dietary supplements by HPLC-UV: collaborative study. J AOAC Int. 2004;87(1):1-14.
- Roman MC. Determination of ephedra alkaloids in urine and plasma by HPLC-UV: collaborative study. J AOAC Int. 2004;87(1):15-24.
- MSM Information. The Arthritis and Glucosamine Information Center website. Available at: www.glucosamine-arthritis.org/glucosamine/MSM.html. Accessed July 9, 2014.