Protecting Against Disease

April 1, 2007

Scientists at Duke Medical Center are leading a national effort to develop the next generation of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests to protect citizens against diseases such as avian flu, SARS, and West Nile virus and against the potential impact of a terrorist attack in which biological agents such as anthrax or smallpox could be released.

At the heart of this effort is a regional biocontainment laboratory funded by the National Institutes of Health and dedicated in February—the first of thirteen labs planned to open nationwide.

“Our goal is to protect the public from biological threats, whether they occur naturally or are propagated by a terrorist act,” says Richard Frothingham M.D. ’82, associate professor of medicine and director of the Global Health Research Building, where the lab is located.

“Because we live in a global society, infections that arise anywhere in the world can quickly become relevant to us,” Frothingham says. “We may think of them as far away, but they do affect us locally.”

In addition to housing specialized research equipment, the facility will provide resources during public-health crises, such as a flu pandemic, when local diagnostic laboratories may be overwhelmed. The building also will serve as a venue for educational programs in community safety, infectious disease, immunology, and public health.