Floods Ruin Years of Health Research

Article excerpt

HOUSTON - The recent rampage by Tropical Storm Allison destroyed a rich cache of important medical research, some of it representing a generation of investigative work.

The Texas Medical Center (TMC), the world's largest health-care complex and one of the nation's most active medical research facilities, is reeling from the effects of last week's floods - repairing facilities, replacing equipment, cataloging damage and reopening some of the many flooded buildings. It will take weeks, perhaps months, to get things back near normal.

"The loss is incalculable," said David Bates, director of public affairs for the University of Texas Health Science Center, one of TMC's 44 institutions.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, planned to lead a large contingent of lawmakers today to examine the catastrophic damage, said Mr. Bates. "Roughly 80 percent of our research animals were killed by the flash flooding," he said, "and 3,200 faculty, students and staff have been displaced."

Mr. Bates estimated that the cost of the interruption of normal business alone might reach $25 million. But it was in the research area, officials said, that the most egregious losses occurred.

One of the most serious losses was suffered by a 25-year breast cancer research project at Baylor University, where scientists had collected 60,000 breast tumor samples. Some of the freezers lost power for hours, and it was not certain how much of this research, if any, could be saved.

Another Baylor project, a study of infantile diarrhea, is in jeopardy because of the same problem. At the University of Texas, an important asthma study was crippled when several genetically engineered animals were lost. …