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Sandy destroyed years of medical research

Published time: October 31, 2012 15:59
Edited time: October 31, 2012 20:29
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a flooded street in New York, October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Keith Bedford)

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a flooded street in New York, October 30, 2012. (Reuters/Keith Bedford)

When Hurricane Sandy struck New York, it washed away years of scientific research from the New York University School of Medicine, including genetically modified mice, enzymes, antibodies and DNA strands.

The hospital, which is among the best research facilities in the country, had not prepared to evacuate during the storm. But after a power outage left the facility in the dark, the building was forced to evacuate, leaving valuable research materials behind. The hospital’s generators were outdated and placed in ineffective areas.

As around 1,000 medical students, nurses, doctors, police and firefighters helped evacuate 260 hospital patients during the blackout, the research couldn’t be saved.

Thousands of mice that had been genetically modified and used for cancer research drowned when the building on E. 32ndSt. flooded. Many of the mice had taken years to produce.

This “will likely set back several scientists’ work by years,” a researcher told the New York Daily News.

Special enzymes, antibodies and DNA strands that were stored at -80 degrees and -20 degrees Fahrenheit were “likely destroyed” when the power went out.

“Scientists are in a desperate frenzy to save what they can and transfer what can be moved to other areas of the hospital,” the source said during the storm. “In one case, scientists were rolling a big freezer – the size of a big refrigerator – to an area of the hospital with emergency power.”

But that emergency power was lost at 8:30 pm Monday.

“This does not equate to a loss of life, but it is extremely disheartening to see years of research go down the drain,” the source said.

NYU will remain closed through Saturday, and thousands of students displaced from their residence halls due to flooding and power outages have been staying in academic buildings.