State-of-the-Art Equipment Catalyzes Public Health Science
New instruments provide the Bloomberg School’s Becton Dickinson Immunology and Flow Cytometry Laboratory with powerful capacity to advance the study of immunology and the treatment of major human diseases.
By Suzanne Flinchbaugh
Published May 9, 2022
Molecular Microbiology and Immunology doctoral candidate Megan Wood could barely contain her excitement. Standing in the Bloomberg School’s Gallery space, she was about to speak to a group gathered in celebration of Becton Dickinson’s recent donation of state-of-the-art flow cytometry instruments.
The latest generation of BD equipment had been critical to Wood’s doctoral thesis on arthritis and human autoimmune response at the cellular level. To understand the causes of inflammation, Wood spent hours probing the inner workings of cells, generating exponential amounts of data. The old instruments were too slow to crunch her data, which initially forced her to break up her computer analysis work into multiple sessions.
But BD’s updated flow cytometry instruments seamlessly sorted and processed up to a million cells per minute. “To be able to run large data sets in single computing sessions was fantastic, and to experience the system’s stability—amazing,” Wood told the crowd. And, she added happily, she was on track to submit her thesis in time for graduation this summer.
BD equipment instrumental to advancement of public health science
MMI Professor Joe Margolick, MD, PhD, who also addressed the group, is director of the Human Immune Assessment Laboratory and the Flow Cytometry Laboratory. Both labs were established in 1986 to support the Multisite AIDS Cohort Study, the world’s longest-running AIDS cohort study. Margolick’s team published the landmark 1989 finding that depleted T-cell counts in HIV-positive patients accurately predicted clinical progression to AIDS.
BD made its first donation of instruments and reagents in 2004 to create what is now known as the BD Immunology and Flow Cytometry Laboratory. Since then, the lab has helped advance public health research efforts by supporting the work of more than 425 Johns Hopkins investigators, approximately 375 different research projects across the University, and producing more than 120 scientific publications.
MMI associate professor Jay Bream, PhD, who co-shepherded the BD donation with Margolick and senior research analyst and lab manager Tricia Nilles, thanked the BD team for its collaborative commitment, noting how the core lab supports a wide range of research topics, from COVID-19 to postpartum depression.
Before BD introduced the first commercial flow cytometer in 1974, it was impossible to efficiently analyze data from large quantities of cells, such as those from clinical samples generated by epidemiological cohort studies. A flow cytometer shoots fluorescent-tagged cells in solution through a laser beam, then records the wavelengths of the scattered light. The resulting patterns provide in-depth quantitative analysis that has become essential for modern scientific and clinical research.
Guests gathered to celebrate
Dean Ellen MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, opened the celebration by thanking BD for its generous donation to the School, echoing Wood’s comments about how the new equipment was helping to accelerate research. Further, she added, “The extraordinary in-kind donation, totaling over $1.1 million, has a simply incalculable value in the knowledge it will continue to generate and in the training we can offer to our students and postdocs.”
BD guests who attended the celebration included Puneet Sarin, worldwide president of BD Biosciences; Brooke Story, worldwide president of IDS; and Dave Hickey, president of BD’s Life Sciences Division, who is also a member of the School’s Health Advisory Board. “It is an honor to be among individuals so committed to interdisciplinary research in immunology and public health at one of the world’s leading academic institutions,” said Hickey. “I have the pleasure of serving on the advisory board for the School, and have seen directly the talent, exceptional facilities, and innovative instruments available to progress research and improve public health.”
The celebratory event was one of the first held at the School since COVID restrictions were eased. And the bubbles from the raised glasses of sparkling cider seemed to express everyone’s sense of optimism, particularly in the power of public health research.
Suzanne Flinchbaugh is a writer in the Office of External Affairs at the Bloomberg School. For more information about Becton, Dickinson and Co., or the Johns Hopkins BD Immunology and Flow Cytometry Lab, please contact Cecilia Meisner, BSPH Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations.