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PEF member at Wadsworth recognized for work in biodefense, advancing laboratory science


HONORED FOR ACHIEVEMENTS – PEF Member Michael Perry, associate director of the Wadsworth Center’s Biodefense Laboratory, received two national awards from the Association of Public Health Laboratories this summer. (Photo courtesy of the NYS Department of Health)

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) honored scientists across the country for exemplary work and contributions to their fields this summer and Wadsworth Center PEF member Michael Perry received two of the national association’s prestigious awards.

As the associate director of the Biodefense Laboratory at Wadsworth, Perry received the Silver Award and the Leadership in Biosafety and Biosecurity Award. The association featured honorees during a virtual ceremony June 25, 2020.

“I was lucky and honored to be awarded two of the Association of Public Health Laboratories awards,” Perry said. “This is the first time I’ve gotten awards from them and it’s pretty unique to get two. I was surprised to get one, when it was two, it was utter shock.”

The APHL presents its Silver Award to a laboratorian with 10 to 15 years of service in a governmental public health lab who is recognized as a leader both within and outside the lab.

“The person has to be instrumental in developing or advocating for best practices in lab sciences,” Perry said of the award. “I serve on committees and advocate for public health. I do presentations and I’m a member of work groups and committees. I have conducted or promoted research leading to advances in lab sciences.”

The Leadership in Biosafety and Biosecurity Award honors a laboratorian with more than 10 years of related service in the field of biosafety and biosecurity in a state or local public health lab who is a recognized leader in their lab, in addition to serving on committees and task forces.

“This award goes to somebody who advocated for best practices in those fields and who identifies and presents emerging issues in the field,” Perry said.

The primary focus of Wadsworth’s Biodefense Laboratory is analysis of clinical and environmental samples for the presence of highly pathogenic organisms such as anthrax, Ebola, plague, botulism and the smallpox virus, to name a few. The lab isolates and detects biothreats and develops ways to identify them in clinical, food, water and environmental samples.

In addition to his job at Wadsworth, Perry works as a contractor for APHL’s Global Health Program, collaborating with other countries to develop biorisk management plans and lending his expertise as a trainer. He credits this work with helping him secure his place as an award winner this year.

“I started with APHL’s Global Health Division in 2016,” he said. “I hope to continue this work throughout my career.” Perry said the people the organization works with in other countries appreciate the assistance and express their gratitude, a rewarding experience for the participants.

The 2020 awards are not Perry’s first.

In 2019, he and his mentor and supervisor, Dr. Christina Egan, received the 2019 North American Global 3Rs Award from the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International and the IQ Consortium.

The 3R award “recognizes those who effectively advance ethical science through the significant, innovative contributions to the 3Rs of animal research – refinement, replacement and reduction,” according the Wadsworth press release announcing the award.

Each year, the organizations present up to four awards, split geographically into North America, Europe, the Pacific Rim and countries outside these areas. To win the North American award was an honor, Perry said.

“That was very rewarding,” he said. “We were lucky to be recognized for our work implementing a new test to detect botulism neurotoxin. It replaced a prior method that relied on lab mice. Our method required no more lab mice and you still get the same detection.”

Perry has always had an interest and a love for science. A PEF member since 2014, he began his career at Wadsworth developing training programs for hazard screenings, including chemistry, biology, radiation and nuclear.

“During that time, I saw the impact public health has on the community,” he said. “It made me fall more in love with the work I was doing and seeing how that transpired into saving lives.”

Receiving these national awards adds to Perry’s passion for his work.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the work,” he said. “I couldn’t have imagined receiving one let alone three awards in the last year. It makes me even more determined and motivated to see what else I can accomplish.”