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Continuing a trend, Pfizer recently announced its plan to provide free anti-fungal drugs to the 50 least developed countries with the highest HIV/AIDS rate. On June 11, GlaxoSmithKline released a report summarizing similar efforts to help underdeveloped countries by providing HIV/AIDS and antimalarial drugs to 63 sub-Sahara African countries at greatly reduced prices.
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June 18, 2001
Volume 79, Number 25
CENEAR 79 25 pp. 11
ISSN 0009-2347
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Transgenic mice, research notes, are among casualties of tropical storm


Massive flooding in Houston and surrounding areas destroyed research at medical and academic centers, interrupted business, and delayed chemical shipments as the first tropical storm of the season arrived.

DELUGE Downtown Houston skyscrapers tower over flooded landscape, but low-lying buildings and floors weren't so lucky.
From June 5 to 10, Allison killed 20 people and dumped up to 3 feet of rain in some areas of town. Among the hardest hit academic facilities was the Texas Medical Center, a complex of hospitals and two medical schools--Baylor College of Medicine and the Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Baylor Vice President and Dean of Research James W. Patrick says about 30,000 mice modified to carry human genes associated with diseases were lost in a flooded basement.

It will take six months to two years to rebuild the mouse lines, which are used in new drug research. Baylor uses the transgenic mice and also supplies them to research institutions worldwide. Although 100,000 mice were saved, Baylor still must determine which mouse lines it has to replace. Baylor also sustained damage to one very expensive electron microscope, freezers, and incubators.

A Health Science Center spokeswoman says that the storm filled the medical school basement with water and left up to a foot of water on the first floor. About 4,700 research animals were lost--mostly lab mice and rats.

Late last week, the school was still "completely dark" and had only limited emergency generator power. Shorted computer hard drives and other water damage has meant that scientists have lost research notes and data, the spokeswoman says.

At Rice University, Ken Whitmire, chairman of the department of chemistry, says only one building had water in the basement, affecting four physicists' labs and the chemistry lab of 1996 Nobel Prize winner Robert F. Curl Jr.--one of three chemists credited with discovering carbon "buckyballs."

"The water has receded," Whitmire says. "They haven't assessed all the damage, but if they have to go in and replace power supplies and vacuum pumps, it could be several months" before the equipment in the basement labs is up and running, he adds.

Major chemical producers weathered the storm with relative ease. AtoFina, Chevron Phillips, Air Products, Lyondell, Equistar, and Celanese say operations continued despite water in the area. A few companies temporarily suspended operations because employees had trouble getting to the manufacturing sites.

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