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SUNY Announces Grand Opening of Vector Biocontainment Lab at Upstate Medical to Research Infectious Diseases

Clinical experts from ESF, Upstate Medical, OCC, SUNY Oswego to collaborate on research
3/12/2021

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the grand opening of the SUNY Upstate Medical Vector Biocontainment Lab established to research infectious diseases that pose major public health risks on March 12. The new $7.6 million 2,500-square-foot laboratory was funded by New York state investment and will house clinical experts from SUNY institutions who will collaborate on cutting-edge research of Coronavirus, Lyme, West Nile, Zika, Dengue, and other infectious diseases, as well as the potential carriers including ticks and other insects.

The new Biocontainment Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory includes strict safety precautions and redundant measures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research potentially dangerous diseases and carriers and develop novel countermeasures to control and prevent infections. Chancellor Malatras joined Upstate Medical President Dr. Mantosh Dewan, ESF President Joanie Mahoney, SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley, and Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill for the grand opening.

"COVID-19 underscores the invaluable work of infectious disease experts and the importance of providing them with a state-of-the-art space and equipment," said Chancellor Malatras. "Tick, mosquito, and other pathogens are serious and need robust study. The new Vector Biocontainment Lab at SUNY Upstate Medical will harness and maximize the scientific expertise across our university system to allow scientists to make discoveries, for the clinicians to develop treatments, and for the patient to seek and receive cures. It's fitting that this lab will operate at Upstate Medical, an institution that's contributed so much to battle against this coronavirus-from creating the world's most accurate saliva test to leading trials on the Pfizer vaccine. I want to thank Dr. Mantosh Dewan, Dr. Saravanan Thangamani, and the entire Upstate team for continuing to chart the path, and New York state for a generous investment that will mitigate and minimize public health threats for decades to come."

Upstate Medical President Dr. Mantosh Dewan said, "For Upstate to add a BLS-3 Vector Biocontainment Lab to our long list of cutting-edge research facilities is a fantastic accomplishment. Dr. Thangamani, Dr. Thomas, and many others have devoted a great deal of time to planning this lab, which will further propel the already ground-breaking work of the Upstate Institute for Global Health and Translational Science. The last year has reminded the world of the importance of research into emerging infectious diseases and Upstate will once again be at the forefront of that work thanks to this incredible new facility."

Saravanan Thangamani, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at Upstate and director of the Upstate Vector Biocontainment Lab, was closely involved in designing the new facility. Dr. Thangamani, an internationally-renowned expert on tick-borne disease research, will utilize the new facility in collaboration with SUNY researchers to develop universal anti-tick vaccine and novel countermeasures against arboviral infections.

Dr. Thangamani said, "It is an integrated containment facility that gives us great versatility-a small facility with huge potential. Some of the features can only be found at the CDC or in an Army laboratory."

With this new lab researchers and clinicians within the SUNY institutions will work together to:

  • understand the biology and ecology of disease transmission;
  • develop new and more precise diagnostics;
  • develop and test vaccines; and,
  • develop novel treatment options.

ESF President Joanie Mahoney said, "Translational research is often described as 'bench (laboratory bench) to the bedside.' This new vector biology lab and collaboration among ESF, Upstate Medical University, Onondaga Community College, and SUNY Oswego will expand this definition to 'from the field to the bench to the bedside.' Uniting world-class environmental scientists, disease researchers, and clinicians here in Syracuse will ultimately improve the health of humans and our planet."

Onondaga Community College President Casey Crabill said, "Over the course of the last year as the pandemic has changed life as we know it, SUNY Upstate Medical University under the leadership of President Dr. Mantosh Dewan has stepped to the forefront and established itself as a global leader in the medical research community. We look forward to watching Dr. Dewan and his staff continue their outstanding work in the new Vector Biocontainment Lab as they make the world a safer place and elevate the reputation of SUNY Upstate Medical University and the entire SUNY System."

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley said, "The new Biocontainment Lab at SUNY Upstate marks an important investment in public health and signals a deep, collaborative commitment to cutting edge research. SUNY Oswego is proud to join our partners from across the system and the many clinical experts and researchers in this important effort to mitigate disease and infection in our communities."

SUNY Upstate Medical has been at the forefront of battling coronavirus, as research and clinical experts, as well as caring for patients during the pandemic. A team led by Dr. Frank Middleton produced the number one saliva test worldwide according to the Food and Drug Administration. SUNY credits the test by Upstate Medical and Quadrant Biosciences in pinpointing cases of COVID-19 on campuses at the earliest stages of the virus. And, Upstate Medical's Dr. Stephen Thomas was appointed the lead principal investigator for the world-wide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial, which was approved earlier this year.