A new lab at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is expected to impact the size and quality of research grants the school will attract.
A child dies of malaria about every 30 seconds, according to Ahmed Aly, assistant professor in tropical medicine. The new, state-of-the-art Collins C. Diboll Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases will work toward gradual elimination of malaria to change that statistic forever, as well as combat other infectious diseases.
“At Tulane, we are working on the development of vaccines to stop infection and transmission of human malaria parasites. In our research we are also using the mouse model for initial discovery research. Once we make these initial findings, we can test the concept for human malaria parasites and possibly develop a vaccine that will prevent the disease completely,” said Nirbhay Kumar, professor and chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine.
The new lab is part of a legacy at Tulane stretching back more than a century. According to Tulane provost Michael Bernstein, the Medical College of Louisiana, Tulane’s predecessor, was founded in 1834 specifically to examine vector-borne diseases.
“The studies of malaria, West Nile, dengue, and other vector-borne viruses that will take place in the Diboll laboratory reflect our institutional roots,” he said. “It is due to the success of the scientists who came together so long ago that New Orleans is no longer called a necropolis.”
Among those trailblazing doctors of yesteryear was Collins Diboll’s great-grandfather, Dr. Joseph S. Copes. Two hundred years ago, he devoted his medical career to the eradication of yellow fever, smallpox, and cholera, all of which plagued New Orleans in that era.
Diboll Foundation trustee and Tulane alumnus David Edwards noted that Collins Diboll made certain suggestions in his will to provide for public health and tropical medicine at his alma mater and keep his great-grandfather’s legacy alive. Diboll was an alumnus of the School of Architecture.
“Collins’s tremendous pride was his great-grandfather,” said Edwards, a member of the Board of Tulane. “The opening of this new lab two centuries later is very propitious. It has also been 25 years since Collins died, and he’d be very proud of what the foundation and Tulane have done in that short time.”
The Diboll Foundation has supported the Joseph S. Copes Chair in Epidemiology, the Collins C. Diboll Auditorium and Gallery, the annual fund, and continuing education at the school.
“Tulane has always been involved in public health, tropical medicine, and the eradication of diseases,” said Dean Pierre Buekens at the dedication ceremony. “This history gives weight to what we’re doing, and today is another leap forward in our efforts to eliminate some of the world’s most contagious and deadliest diseases.”
The new lab is located in the J. Bennett Johnston building on Tulane Avenue.