Saranac Lakers of all stripes - current, former and wishful residents - should be happy at the progress Trudeau Institute has made in pulling itself up by its own bootstraps.
The good news keeps coming:
-The institute has hired a new director-president-CEO, Ronald Goldfarb, and although we're no experts, by our rough estimation he seems remarkably well qualified, with a great deal of experience and success on his resume. This hire is a huge step for the institute, which has had a vacancy at the top for a year.
-Andrea Cooper's lab at Trudeau is beginning a partnership with a research hospital in China, linking experiments in Saranac Lake to help understand - and cure - tuberculosis with real-live human patients over there. This is necessary for Trudeau because these days, the research that's getting grant funding largely has to do with people rather than mice, which is mostly what Trudeau works on.
-And on Wednesday (reported on today's page 1), the institute announced that the labs led by Laura Haynes and Stephen Smiley have had published a significant study of how, if you have the flu or are vaccinated for it, the immunity you gain from that can help prevent future bacterial infections like pneumonia.
Many locals still don't pay much attention to the biomedical research campus at the end of Algonquin Avenue, tucked away on the scenic shore of Lower Saranac Lake, but more people are starting to notice - and care. It's a major private employer, with about 100 people on staff, and a prestigious and highly professional one that brings new blood into the community. It's also one local science students can learn from and aspire to work for.
It also matters to you if flu, pneumonia, tuberculosis, listeria and bioterrorism matter to you.
And we very nearly lost it to Florida or some other place, thanks to a secretive three-year campaign led by former Executive Director David Woodland. He is an excellent scientist by all accounts, but he didn't have much confidence in Saranac Lake as a sustainable location for this institute. He had good reasons to doubt it, too, given the way federal research grants are trending toward places closer to research hospitals (see the Cooper-China paragraph above), but the good news is it's not as clean-cut as that. This institute can continue to do great science and be fiscally sustainable here; it just has to make some adjustments. And now it is doing so.
In early 2011, Trudeau's Board of Trustees slammed the door hard on the option of leaving town - so hard, and so lacking in a detailed road map of the way forward, that many within the institute had their faith in it severely shaken. Some left, including Mr. Woodland.
The ones who stayed, however, doubled down on doing their part to bring the institute back from the brink and keep the prow pointing toward excellence. They did so with great science and moral leadership, making the most of what remained. Mr. Goldfarb commented to the Enterprise on their continued good work amid a leadership vacuum. Consider, most of these scientists didn't grow up here. They've put down a few roots, but as professionals, they might be expected to go where the work takes them. We are fortunate that they are so committed to being here.
The institute probably still has a long road back to its former financial strength, but it seems to be on the right track.
We're curious to see how it reacts to local factors: if it requests annexation into the village of Saranac Lake, as village officials are asking it to do, and what kind of role it will play in the biotech cluster that is emerging here. We expect, however, that these will be handled with the grace, intelligence and foresight that has, in general, marked this institution since Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau established it here in the late 1800s.