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Medical research wiped out by Sandy

November 30, 2012 2:25:47 PM PST
Hurricane Sandy flooded NYU Langone Medical Center on the East Side and forced a patient evacuation, but it also flooded some laboratories doing cutting edge research. The federal government took a look at the damage on Friday.

Research treatments can sometimes take decades to reach your doctor's office, and the damage from Sandy will add years to the process. The head of the National Institutes of Health in Washington says the cost of destruction is between fifty and one hundred million dollars.

The research labs at NYU Langone looked like a construction site, with cables hanging from the ceiling, sensitive machines covered against dust and damage. The director of the NIH, which funds much of the center's work, was here to assure NYU Langone that the NIH has the back of its scientists.

"We want to be there as much as we can to support those investigators as much as we can, because they're going through an historic circumstance," Dr. Francis Collins, director NIH, said.

Stairwells once filled with sea water were now dark and cold as we climbed five flights of stairs with Dr. Collins to see the damage firsthand.

Inside a working lab at NYU, benches are covered with test tubes and reagents, more reagent on shelves, and a DNA analysis machine. This is a damaged lab. It's cold in here, about 32 degrees, and there are no lights. A freezer that should be at minus 20 degrees is room temperature. All the reagents inside destroyed.

It's Sergei Koralov's lab. He's studying genes which control asthma and cancer. Damage to his live and frozen samples has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It will take between three months and two years to get back to where we were," Koralov said.

Even though NYU Langone was already building a new energy center right outside the lab of Dr. Beatrix Ueberhiede, lack of power shut down her one of a kind mass spectrometer.

"We need a vacuum in our instruments that is lower than the vacuum in outer space. In order to create that vacuum, we need reliable power that we don't have right now in this building. That stalls out my entire operation," Ueberhiede said.

An operation that may start up again in weeks, not months, according to NYU Langone. The new energy center building we showed you will not be running until 2015. We were told that there may be some changes in construction to prevent, not just hypothetical threats, but the real threats of more storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

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