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Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Visits Wadsworth Center's David Axelrod Institute for Public Health
On Monday June 15th the Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable Kathy Hochul, visited the David Axelrod Institute. She had specifically asked to learn more about our preparedness and biodefense activities, so the first stop was a tour of the Biodefense Laboratory. Dr. Christina Egan described the laboratory’s capabilities to detect agents-of-concern in white powders, as well as other environmental samples, and the major push in the development and evaluation of new technologies since the anthrax attacks of 2001. Christina also described her work with the Department of Homeland Security and device manufacturers on the evaluation of field devices. The Lieutenant Governor was particularly interested in our training of first responders and our Code Red Collection kit.
The next stop was Dr. Nicholas Mantis’s mucosal immunology laboratory. Nick showed the Lieutenant Governor a tube of castor beans from which the toxin, ricin, can be extracted and then spoke about his work developing a ricin vaccine. The Lieutenant Governor met Dr. David Vance and Dr Yinghui Rong in Dr. Mantis’s laboratory. These two scientists were the first to demonstrate that it is possible to combine a candidate ricin toxin vaccine (RiVax) with a candidate anthrax vaccine (Velothrax) and elicit protective immunity to both ricin toxin and anthrax toxin in mice. This study, done in collaboration with the lab’s longstanding partners at Soligenix, Inc. in Princeton, NJ, was published in the journal Vaccine earlier this year.
The last stop on the tour was the Bacteriology Laboratory where Dr. Kimberlee Musser and Nellie Dumas showed the Lieutenant Governor the different areas of the laboratory including those devoted to classical culture methods and to molecular diagnostics. The Lieutenant Governor was fascinated by the laboratory’s work in food-borne disease outbreaks and Kim and Nellie told many stories about the outbreaks in which they had been involved. They also discussed the incredible change in technology that has occurred in diagnostic testing over the last ten years and the impact that NextGeneration Sequencing will have in the near future.
It really was an exciting visit! The Lieutenant Governor was clearly impressed by our work and was very engaged in conversations with our scientists. We hope she will come back for further visits.