On October 29, 2012, the NYU Langone Medical Center was hit by the Superstorm Sandy, which caused significant damages to the facilities used to conduct my research. Hurricane Sandy caused storm surges that exceeded what our facilities could withstand, leading to significant flooding. The repercussions of this flooding led to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing damages in many of the research buildings at NYU. These damages led to immediate loss of experiments and reagents but have also long-term delays in the completion of this project. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, access to all research buildings was limited due to health and safety issues. Smilow Research Building, our main laboratory location, had no power for a week post-Sandy, which meant that freezers and refrigerators containing reagents we use routinely for experimentation were lost. Full-power and unrestricted access to the Smilow Research Building was not restored until one month post-Sandy. After the re-opening of Smilow, an additional 2 months of our time was dedicated to cataloging research losses and purchasing new reagents for experimentation. The Berg Building, which houses our Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL3) facility, remains without power. This facility housed animals infected with M. tuberculosis (M.tb) and is where we processed all infected samples prior to the storm. All infectious samples from on-going experiments were stored in refrigerators and freezers within the ABSL3 facility. We were able to save bacterial strains stored within our -80C freezer by supplying it with dry ice, however many other samples from on-going experiments could not be saved. The loss of these experimental samples is equal to a loss of three 6-week experiments. Work with the infected animals of the ongoing experiments at that time was significantly delayed in the absence of a proper ABSL3 facility and prevented the analysis of samples at key time points during infection. The ABSL3 located in Berg remains without power, ventilation, running water, or elevator access;the reopening of this facility is projected to be in September of this year, which will make it nearly a year post-Sandy, that this facility has been shut down. In the meantime we have made use of a second BSL3 facility within the Smilow Research Building, which is now operational on a limited basis to resume M. tuberculosis experiments. This facility was suited for in vitro work, with one Tissue Culture (TC) hood available for TB work, which was a huge bottleneck for progress, since amongst the TB labs at NYU we went from 4 available TC hoods to 1 available hood for experimentation. With the exception of Aim 1 of this project, all other proposed experiments for this award require mouse infections with M. tuberculosis. In April 2013, 6 months post-Sandy, we were able to expand to 2 TC hoods (shared by 15 people), it was also at this time that we were able to relocate the aerosol unit from our ABSL3 in the Berg Building to this Smilow BSL3. A satellite mouse housing facility has been built to accommodate our need for infected animal housing post-Sandy. To-date, we are ~20% operational post-Sandy.
The study of T cell responses to M. tuberculosis represents a critical step towards the development of vaccines to protect against tuberculosis. We aim to understand the dynamics of T cell interactions with M. tuberculosis infected cells within lung tissue to elucidate mechanisms employed by the pathogen to evade eradication. An understanding of these key mechanisms will assist in the efforts to design novel vaccines that more efficiently target and activate effector T cells to protect humans from tuberculosis.