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Big Blackout of 03 Causes Blips and Flickers, But Few Catastrophes in Northeast Life Science Corridor

NEW YORK, Aug. 15 (GenomeWeb News) - Everybody working at the Center for Applied Genomics in Newark was too busy "trying to save experiments" this morning to talk much about how the big blackout of '03, which left millions across the northeastern US and Canada without power yesterday, had affected them, according to Selena, a staff member.

 

But suffice it to say, the interruption of power had significantly disrupted the work of this microbial genomics lab at the Public Health Research Institute, which makes and uses microarrays for pathogens such as TB cytomegalovirus, Bacillus subtilis, and Group A Streptococcus.  What's more, Selena said, the boss was on vacation (a situation undoubtedly shared by many employees affected by the late-summer power outage).

 

Other genomics and proteomics labs in pharma, life sciences companies, and academic centers throughout the Northeast were generally more fortunate in their experience of the power outage, due to the presence of major backup power systems-or the good luck of being just outside the affected area, GenomeWeb has learned.

 

Rockefeller

 

At Rockefeller University, located smack in the middle of the blacked out island of Manhattan, there were no problems due to the generators that provided emergency power, said Thomas Tuschl, the short interfering RNA innovator who heads up a lab there. After the blackout, he said, "we just put things on ice" and people went home.

 

Tushl added that he and colleagues "went to the faculty club and had a good time. We used the time for discussing projects" and drinking beer.  "The only hard part was finding the restrooms," which were not supplied with emergency power.

 

Yale

 

At Yale University, backup emergency systems also saved the day. Mike Snyder, who does proteomics research, said the power situation "didn't really affect my lab."  Because of the emergency power source "things just blinked and that was it."

 

However, other researchers at Yale were having some problems, said Don Wiggin, administrator for biology. The biggest problems, according to Wiggin, were with the chilled water for the constant temperature rooms, and a cold room in the lab facilities used by Snyder and a few others was still having problems with a pressure release valve as of late morning. Another minor issue today was the loss of fume hoods in one lab, Wiggin said.

 

Amersham Biosciences

 

Amersham Biosciences' headquarters in Piscataway, NJ were just outside the perimeter of the power outage, so the company was unaffected. But some employees who reside in the area and were stranded by the shut down of the public transportation system--like many in the Northeast--spent the night in their offices. "My commute was 5 minutes today, not an hour," said spokesperson Lucy Morrison.

 

Bayer, Boeringher Ingleheim, Merck, and Schering Plough

 

At Bayer's West Haven, Conn., facility the lights flickered briefly, but the power never went down, said Doug Bigwood, associate director at the facility. Today, everything is business as usual.

 

Meanwhile, at Boeringher Ingleheim in Ridgfield, Conn., the power did go out at just after 4PM, but the emergency generators allowed for systems to keep running without incident, according to Sheila Burke, of the company's incident management team. The facility regained power at about 2AM today, and all is back to normal.

 

At Merck, located in Rahway, NJ, there was a brief brown out, but the generators switched on and work proceeded apace, according to spokesperson Susan Case.    

 

Schering Plough had a brief power outage but also switched onto its own generators soon afterwards, according to a company spokesman.

 

Genaissance Pharma

 

Richard Judson, who will soon be taking over as chief scientific officer at Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, had an unexpected challenge to cope with yesterday, when the power went out at the New Haven, Conn.,-based company. But the company's uninterrupted power supply prevented the loss of any genotyping or research experiments, he told GenomeWeb.  The UPS provides about 20 minutes of power, allowing for the "orderly shutdown" of computers and experiments, he said. It also enables company researchers to monitor their work from home with a beeper system that alerts them if there is a problem, so they can come into the company and properly shut down their experiments and systems, according to Judson.

Currently, everything is back on at the company, Judson said. But, as with many companies along the Eastern seaboard, the major headache for Genaissance right now is that they have no Internet or email service, because of problems being experienced by an internet routing hub in New York.  

 

Not coincidentally, GenomeWeb has also experienced power interruptions and internet routing issues. As such, the weekly RNAi Roundup will not publish today, and newsletter ProteoMonitor, which was to out Friday, will be delayed until Monday morning.

 

 

 

 

 






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