Saranac Laboratory Designated as Milestones in Microbiology Site

Oct. 11, 2019

Saranac Laboratory Named a Milestone in Microbiology

The Saranac Laboratory in Saranac Lake, N.Y. was named a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) on October 11, 2019, in recognition of its historic and revolutionary contributions to the understanding and treatment of tuberculosis (TB).

Saranac Laboratory Contributions

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau founded the Saranac Laboratory in 1894 as the first facility in the United States built specifically for research on TB. Trudeau was one of the first American researchers to confirm Robert Koch’s findings that Mycobacterium tuberculosis was the causal agent of tuberculosis. Building on those findings, Trudeau and other scientists at Saranac Laboratory, and later at the companion Trudeau Research and Clinical Laboratory (founded in 1924), conducted studies that led to key advances in the field.

In groundbreaking experiments, Trudeau established that both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the environment contribute to the development of TB. With this new knowledge, he pioneered innovative effective TB treatments. He founded a sanatorium for patients, which proved so successful in treating the disease that it served as the model for hundreds of sanatoria throughout the United States and Canada. As word spread about this new way to treat TB, the village of Saranac Lake became a center for patients of all economic and social classes seeking state-of-the-art TB treatment.

Other notewothy microbiologists made critical advances at the Trudeau laboratories in Saranac Lake:

  • Strashimir A. Petroff developed improved methods to culture the tubercle bacillus.
  • William Steenken Jr. isolated H37Rv, the most commonly used laboratory TB strain, and conducted research that led to the introduction of effective anti-tubercular drug therapies.
  • Edward R. Baldwin started the Trudeau Mycobacterial Culture Collection, which included some of the earliest isolates of M. tuberculosis, and for decades, was the most comprehensive assembly of pathogenic mycobacteria in the world.

The Saranac Laboratory was renowned as a global center for scientific training. The Trudeau School for Tuberculosis, established by Baldwin in 1916, was an annual six-week course that trained physicians and scientists from around the world in the latest developments in TB treatment and research.

After the Saranac Laboratory closed in 1964, experiments moved to the Trudeau Institute, where Trudeau’s scientific legacy continues to inspire advances in the microbial sciences.

Saranac Laboratory Milestones Plaque with  (L-R) Brian Weinrick, Amy Catania, Mary Hotaling, Robin Patel, William Jacobs.
Saranac Laboratory Milestones Plaque (Facsimile) with (L-R) Brian Weinrick, Amy Catania, Mary Hotaling, Robin Patel, William Jacobs; photo courtesy of Trudeau Institute (K. Keck)

Milestones in Microbiology Ceremony

The Milestones ceremony was held in conjunction with a day-long symposium, “From Rabbit Island to Reporter Strains: A symposium celebrating over 125 years of tuberculosis research in Saranac Lake,” held at the Trudeau Institute. Organized by Drs. Brian Weinrick (Trudeau Institute), William Jacobs (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), and Keith Derbyshire (Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health), the symposium featured talks by leading TB researchers.

2019 TB Symposium at Trudeau Institute
2019 TB Symposium at Trudeau Institute (photo courtesy of K. Keck, Trudeau Institute). (Click image to view larger version.)

Following the symposium, attendees congregated at the Saranac Laboratory Museum, site of Trudeau’s original laboratory, to view exhibits on Trudeau and the groundbreaking work that took place there. Amy Catania, Executive Director of Historic Saranac Lake, the non-profit organization overseeing the museum, welcomed all the attendees, including members of Historic Saranac Lake, symposium participants, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, Keith Derbyshire, Director, Division of Genetics, Wadsworth Center Laboratories, NYS Department of Health representing Governor Cuomo, and State Senator Betty Little, who congratulated the museum for the important role it plays in making the Saranac Laboratory legacy known and appreciated in the local community and beyond.

Catania announced that United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter of recognition, and United States Congressperson Elise Stefanik added mention of the Milestones occasion to the Congressional Record.

Attendees toasted (with champagne) the newest Milestones in Microbiology site, and ASM President Robin Patel presented the Milestones plaque to the museum. “The work conducted at Saranac Laboratory, and later at Trudeau Institute, not only expanded our understanding of TB exponentially, but served as a guide as to how to treat this life threatening disease,” Patel said. “ASM is honored to recognize the Saranac Laboratory as a Milestones site for its contributions that have advanced the science and society’s understanding of TB.”

After a reception, Trudeau Institute President and Director Atsuo Kuki concluded the Milestones festivities with brief remarks on current and planned future research programs at the Institute.

Milestones Plaque

View of the Milestone plaque presented to the Saranac Laboratory by the American Society for Microbiology.
The Milestone Plaque recognizes the Saranac Laboratory's historic contributions to the research and treatment of tuberculosis (TB).

The Milestones plaque will be prominently displayed in the Saranac Lake museum where it will be readily accessible to the general public.

Local Press Coverage:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Purpose of the Milestones in Microbiology Program:

The Milestones in Microbiology program was established by ASM to promote greater awareness and appreciation of the microbial sciences and stimulate interest in microbiological heritage. The award recognizes and honors institutions and scientists who have made significant contributions toward advancing the microbial sciences.

Milestones in Microbiology Sites

Learn How to Apply for Milestones in Microbiology Recognition.