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An island asset for the whole world

The Galveston Daily News — July 30, 2009

Recently, University of Texas Medical Branch scientists working in the university's biocontainment laboratories took extraordinary and successful first steps toward development of a vaccine for ebola.

A viable vaccine against this deadly disease would not only protect people but also could spell hope for critically endangered animal species like Africa's western lowland gorilla.

The Galveston National Laboratory also proved its worth during the recent swine-flu outbreak. Thanks to the collective expertise and unique diagnostic equipment that exists here, UTMB researchers were able to come quickly to the aid of the Texas public health community, which was overwhelmed with samples in need of testing, as well as for our neighbors in Mexico and Colombia.

I know all this because I am chair UTMB's Community Liaison Committee, an independently appointed advisory group that meets regularly to hear about the important work taking place in the university's biocontainment laboratories, including the GNL, and to provide guidance to university officials on communicating with the public about that research.

Sitting on that committee provides me unique insight into the unparalleled infectious-diseases expertise at the university — expertise that is routinely sought after and relied upon the world over.

In 2005, a multimillion-dollar grant from National Institutes of Health solidified Galveston as a hub for world-renowned infectious-disease research.

The recently dedicated facility — the only national laboratory in Texas — is dedicated to the safe and timely study of emerging infectious diseases.

That unique facility, along with the well-established Robert E. Shope Laboratory, is yielding results we can be proud of.

Groundbreaking work and discovery is happening here and it is drawing the attention of the world.

This positive attention raises Galveston's profile and can result in new businesses, jobs and revenue that will benefit the community as a whole.

Jimmy Kessler is chairman of University of Texas Medcal Branch Community Liaison Committee.

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