Mailman School shares new virus identification technologies

05/03/05

Technology training will reduce time needed for pathogen identification and strengthen ability of labs to respond to global disease outbreaks

The recent outbreaks of avian influenza throughout Asia and hemorrhagic fever due to exposure to Marburg virus in Angola highlight the importance of ensuring that as many labs as possible have access to new pathogen identification technologies as they are developed. Currently, clinical samples must sometimes be sent great distances for analysis, and the sensitivity of the technologies and equipment in labs varies greatly.

In an effort to address this, scientists from the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health will share their newly developed technology platforms, which significantly reduce time needed for pathogen identification, at a week-long workshop they are hosting for scientists from around the globe whose laboratories are members of the World Health Organization (WHO) Surveillance Network. The workshop will be held at the Greene Lab from May 1 May 6, 2005.

Scientists representing institutions from the U.S., Hong Kong, Australia, Germany, Canada, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, and China (see attached list of institutions), many of whom provided input and reagents during the technology design process, will attend the Greene Lab training course. China's unprecedented participation in a global meeting of this kind provides an extraordinary opportunity for continued technology sharing and coordinated surveillance.

The workshop will provide an overview as well as hands-on sessions in the Greene Lab where participants will work in groups with Columbia faculty members using newly developed technologies that allow rapid identification of known and unknown pathogens.

"We feel that sharing these new technologies is critical to global health and consistent with our vision for a school of public health," says W. Ian Lipkin, MD, the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Professor of Epidemiology, professor of Neurology and Pathology at Columbia University, and director of the Greene Lab. "We fully expect that by sharing these diagnostic platforms with some of the best minds in infectious disease research, the technology will continue to improve and that increasingly sensitive and rapid diagnostics will result."

Funding for the development of these technologies was received from the National Institutes of Health / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), Northeast Biodefense Center, and Ellison Medical Foundation. NIAID and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation provided additional funding for the workshop. Says Dr. Lipkin, "The advances that we've been able to make in pathogen identification are a direct result of increased funding in the area of biodefense. There is a tremendous 'peace dividend' gained from these investments because we will continue to see natural outbreaks of disease, and the increased speed, accuracy, and coordination of surveillance and response will save lives."

Select list of institutions participating in Greene Lab training course:
Australian Biosecurity CRC, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Austrailia
Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health, Winnipeg, Canada
University of Hong Kong, SAR China
Capital Institute of Pediatrics, Beijing, China
Fudan University, Shanghai,China
Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany
Bernhardt Nocht Institute, Hamburg, Germany
NHS, Glasglow, Scotland
Centro Nacional de Microbiologia, Madrid, Spain
CDC, Special Pathogens, Atlanta, GA
Agilent Technologies, Palo Alto, CA
USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, MD
Wadsworth Center, NYSDOH, Albany, NY

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