DAYTON, OHIO--Dawn P. Wooley, Ph.D., became the first scientist in Ohio to become a Certified Biosafety Professional through the American Biological Safety Association. An associate professor of virology at Wright State University, Wooley is one of only 125 researchers across the country to have accumulated the requisite education and experience and to have passed the rigorous test needed to obtain this elite certification.
"After 9/11," says Wooley, "biosafety became a major issue. We needed more scientists and laboratories involved in biodefense and facilities that could handle microorganisms, recombinant DNA, and infectious agents."
The field of biosafety emerged to promote safe laboratory practices for containment equipment and facilities as the science of microbiology gained the knowledge and skills to isolate, manipulate, or propagate pathogenic microorganisms. Biosafety protects the researchers themselves as well as the environment through strict federal regulations.
"My goal is to train the next generation of scientists in biosafety," she says. Her new course, Biological Safety, will be offered fall quarter of this year for faculty, staff, and students who work in labs with biological hazards.
"Dr. Wooley's certification and scientific credentials are of great value to Wright State's biomedical and biodefense research efforts," says Timothy Cope, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Physiology. "Her expertise will help develop biotechnology platforms for these research activities as well as assess the safety of biological research techniques."
At Wright State, Wooley conducts her research in a BSL-3 Facility, one of four classifications for biologic research designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The levels-1 through 4-signify the increasing level of risk individual pathogens can present to humans.
Wooley serves as the principal investigator for two important projects: HIV-1 mutation rates in the AIDS virus and methods to detect biological agents that may be used as weapons of mass destruction, specifically hemorrhagic fever virus.
Genetic variation of HIV-1 is the single largest obstacle in developing effective vaccines and therapies for preventing AIDS. She has a patent pending for an assay to help monitor these mutations in HIV-1. Determining how rapidly this causative agent is mutating in an individual will lead to better diagnostics and treatment decisions for HIV- infected individuals and be useful for pharmaceutical research and development.
Wooley has a National Institutes of Health grant to study cellular response to hemorrhagic fever virus and to develop early detection of exposure. In the biodefense field, Wooley sits on the executive board of the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, a collaborative of 26 academic and research institutes. The six-state consortium focuses on the CDC-designated top bio-threat agents for development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Wooley received her Ph.D. in virology from Harvard Medical School and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Her other certifications include Registered Biosafety Professional and Specialist Microbiologist through the National Registry of Microbiologists.
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