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Managing Horseshoe Crab Conservation in a Time of COVID

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CAI's partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratories Falmouth Forum Lecture Series continues with this interview. Our guest is Norman Wainwright, Director of Research and Development, Microbial Solutions, Charles River Laboratories. Dr. Wainwright utilizes his expertise in the primitive immune systems of marine invertebrates, especially the horseshoe crab, to drive the development of innovative rapid technologies. He also collaborates with NASA on the development of new planetary protection procedures and life detection technologies that utilize the LAL and related reagents. Dr. Wainwright joined Charles River after serving as a Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Director of Molecular Genetics at Interferon Sciences, Inc.

The LAL reagent, comprised of enzymes from the American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus Polyphemus), is an essential test to assure pharmaceuticals and medical products are free of potentially life threatening bacterial contamination. This is true for routine production as well as new product development, such as the current flurry of new vaccines and drugs to address COVID-19. Does this create a stress on supplies of LAL? Are there alternatives that could alleviate the situation? What is the possibility of using recombinant DNA technology to fill this need? We discuss this in the context of medical needs and conservation concerns.

Mindy Todd is the host and producer of The Point on WCAI which examines critical issues for Cape Cod and the Islands. She brings more than 30 years of experience in radio and television to WCAI.