Joseph Pagano, Ph.D. (August 13, 2003)
Wednesday, August 13, 2003 By Sally A. Downey Inquirer Staff Writer Joseph F. Pagano, 84, a medical researcher who developed a lifesaving screening test for colon cancer, died of complications from pneumonia Friday at White Horse Village in Newtown Square. In the 1960s, Dr. Pagano was a medical researcher for the Smith Kline & French pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia, where he patented Hemoccult, a test that could be used as a preliminary screening for colon cancer. Since then, the test has been used by millions all over the world, said Dr. Ronald J. Schoengold, a colleague of Dr. Pagano’s at Smith Kline. His daughter, Connie Smedley, said: “My father was very proud that he had helped save lives.” During his career, she said, he was responsible for 35 patents, including an antifungal drug, amphotericin, and parbendozole, a treatment for worm infestation in animals and humans. “Some researchers never get past ideas,” Schoengold said. “Joe was a true industrial scientist. He could envision the practicality of his research. He was a great mentor to many young scientists, including me,” he said. Dr. Pagano grew up in New York and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. During World War II, he served as a Navy medical officer in the Pacific. After his discharge, he returned to the University of Illinois and earned a doctorate in microbiology and biochemistry. From 1949 to 1960, he worked at the Squibb Institute for Medical Research in New Brunswick, N.J. He was on the staff of the Sterling Institute for Medical Research for two years before joining the research and development department of Smith Kline & French in 1962. From 1972 until he retired in 1979, he was director of the diagnostics division of Smith Kline & French, now GlaxoSmithKline. He continued to consult for the company until three years ago. Dr. Pagano’s daughter said he invented several items for the home as well as for the medical industry. “When the shower door wouldn’t close, he came up with a gadget to fix it. He was a Renaissance man,” she said. “He loved cooking Italian food, gardening, playing the violin, and he sang operatic tenor.” He also enjoyed scuba diving, fishing and boating in Ocean City, N.J. Before moving to White Horse Village two years ago, Dr. Pagano had been a longtime resident of Paoli. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mary Mitchell Pagano; another daughter, Elaine Sloan; a sister; and five grandchildren. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Norbert Church, 50 Leopard Rd., Paoli. Friends may call from 10 to 11 a.m. tomorrow at Alleva Funeral Home, 1724 E. Lancaster Ave., Paoli. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 600 N. Jackson St., Media, Pa. 19063.