Even as about 90% of Princeton’s research labs are shuttered, care for research animals continues uninterrupted under the direction of Laura Conour, the University’s attending veterinarian and the director of Lab Animal Resources.
Her 26 team members, including veterinarians, administrators and animal care technicians, provide daily attention to thousands of research animals in labs across the campus. “We’re still here,” Conour said on the latest episode of the “We Roar” podcast. “We’re doing what needs to be done.”
Conour, who teaches disaster preparedness to research veterinarians at other universities, said she reached for Princeton’s flu pandemic plan as soon as she heard about the new virus emerging in China. She immediately began reinforcing supply chains for food and bedding for Princeton’s research animals, and she put into place a “continuity of care” plan for the animals.
Even after on-campus instruction ended and the governor issued a stay-at-home order, Conour’s team of essential employees came to campus daily to care for Princeton’s thousands of research animals, despite the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
“Just the fact that all of my staff is able to come in and do such a great job in taking care of the animals right now, with all of that going on, is just simply amazing,” she said. “Our researchers really care for these animals.”
In the podcast, Conour discussed the lengths to which her team goes to protect the University’s animals, including the population of 17 macaque monkeys, which are susceptible to the coronavirus. “They would experience the same type of clinical disease — in terms of respiratory issues, high fever — they would experience that just like humans do, and so we need to protect our macaque population,” she said.
In the podcast, she described some early results of research into vaccines and treatments being done at other facilities using macaques. (Princeton’s monkeys are used in neurological studies, not coronavirus research.) “The wheels of research are really turning on this,” she said.