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Research and Development


State-of-the-art diagnostic testing capabilities rely on the latest research findings and access to the latest technologies. This allows for the rapid application of novel concepts or emerging technologies to public health threats. Research conducted in the Biodefense Laboratory fosters collaboration with other scientists at Wadsworth Center and from institutions conducting related investigations, the primary goals of which are:

Valerie J. Bolivar, Ph.D.

In our behavior neurogenetics laboratory we study the role of genetics in complex behaviors. Autism is a behaviorally defined disorder with symptoms that include impairments in social interactions, cognitive inflexibility, language difficulties, and repetitive motor behaviors. Assumed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the precise etiology of autism remains elusive. The BTBR T+ tf/J mouse displays several autism-like behaviors and we are studying this strain in more detail to elucidate the underlying genes and brain structures.

Valerie J. Bolivar

Clinical Testing

The ability to perform definitive testing for pathogens that cause human and animal disease is a critical public health function. Rapid, accurate and sensitive testing of clinical specimens, environmental specimens, food, and water samples provides a scientific foundation for an appropriate public health response and can reduce disease prevalence and transmission.

Acceptable specimens

Specimens tested in the Biodefense Laboratory include:


The Biodefense Laboratory’s primary focus is analysis of clinical and environmental samples for the presence of highly pathogenic organisms such as:

  • Bacillus anthracis causative agent of Anthrax
  • Yersinia pestis causative agent of Plague
  • Smallpox virus

When anthrax was used as a bioterrorist agent in 2001, the Laboratory rapidly analyzed over 1,000 suspicious materials and clinical specimens for the presence of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax.

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