FAIRLAWN, Ohio—For more than 50 years, Mohan Kosamia has made latex his life. For his long-running efforts in the industry, he was honored with the D11 distinguished service award from ASTM International's committee on rubber and rubber-like materials.
Kosamia started his career in India, where he received his master's degree in organic chemistry from the Sir. P.T. Sarvajanik College of Science in Surat, India, in 1963. He began teaching his own classes, and his students made their way to the U.S. to become part of the growing rubber industry there.
By 1971, he and his wife decided to come to the U.S. as well, and he joined Playtex in Paramus, N.J., as part of its research and development team in 1972. While working at Playtex, he was involved in development of a formulation that used less synthetic latex and more natural latex to make durable kitchen gloves. As the price of synthetic latex was rising, Playtex was able to make 100 percent natural latex gloves that could endure use in the kitchen.
Kosamia—who talked about the award and his career during the International Latex Conference in Fairlawn, Ohio—joined Young's Drug Products Corp. in Trenton, N.J., in 1977 as an assistant chief chemist, and continued on there to director of quality control, production manager and operation manager.
In 1985, Carter-Wallace, a personal care company headquartered in New York, acquired Young's, and Kosamia continued his work with the Trojan condom product line. The same year, Rock Hudson died of AIDS, and business picked up as more people became conscious of safety.
He first joined ASTM International in 1980, and was involved in the development of the standards for the prophylactic diaphragm and the synthetic polyurethane condom. He was an ASTM D-11 rubber task group chairman for 24 years, he said.
In 2001, Church & Dwight Co. Inc. acquired the personal care brands of Carter-Wallace, including Trojan condoms. As the manager of technical/R&D services, he helped continue the integration of automation in the manufacturing and testing process.
Throughout his work with Church & Dwight, one focus was maintaining a strong relationship with regulators, and keeping the manufacturing process transparent and accountable. He keeps documentation all together in one place, to make the regulator's job as easy as possible, he said.
"It's a heavily regulated product. (Regulators) will pick up a sample from any store, and go to their lab and check it. If they find any holes, they ask for a recall," he said. "We never had that. We had a great relationship. They should know what we are doing, how we are doing it and why."
The latex and rubber industry as a whole is looking up, and for products like condoms specifically. Over the years, condoms have gone from being stored behind counters to being available on the supermarket shelf. And although sales to the government have gone down over time, overall sales have continued to go up. As the market has grown, Church & Dwight holds about 78 percent of the U.S. market share, he said.
The company itself is doing well, and continues to manufacture Trojan condoms solely from its facility in Richmond, Va., with more than 300 employees, he said. Church & Dwight—owner of the Arm & Hammer product line—also diversifies into other products and markets, including recently acquiring Waterpik Inc. in July for $1 billion. The company is looking into the possibility for expansion or a pilot plant for the Trojan line, and have talked with German condom manufacturer CPR GmbH about producing machines for the product.
Kosamia also bridges the gap between research and engineers, assisting in bringing new technology together with product designers.
"My job is technical advice. I'm the liaison between R&D and technical, because R&D people are always wondering what's going on with latex," he said. "My life, 55-56 years with latex, I understand it. Latex is my life."
He received the award of achievement from committee D11 on rubber and rubber-like products in 2007, and was surprised by the distinguished service award this year.
"I'm happy with what I've done," he said. "I was not expecting it."
In his day-to-day work, he tries to spend time with as many people working on his team as possible, working both with the day and night shifts. That way, he can take care of problems as they come up before they become larger.
"If they have an issue, if they have a question, they can ask me," he said. "Once I make sure everyone's running smooth, I can go home and know there's no problem."
Kosamia, who has plans to retire in January, said his roots as a teacher and professor are a part of his daily work as well.
"I train the people we want, because ultimately I know I may not be working for a long period of time," he said. "I was a science college teacher for 7-8 years. That is in my mind all the time, and that is the way I try to teach them."