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Maryland's hidden gem: Applied physics lab leads during pandemic

Posted at 3:33 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 17:16:50-04

LAUREL, Md. — On its face its just a giant structure, but inside the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab’s new Building 201 in Howard County, you may encounter a molecular biologist who is helping to crack the code on COVID-19.

“The availability of this sequence has allowed us to really understand how to treat the virus,” Peter Thielen explained to a group visiting the lab.

Or the brilliant minds behind the global database, which is tracking the virus on a singular dashboard unlike any we’ve ever seen.

“We have a remarkable team where I can be confident when people ask me, ‘What would you do? Would you go on vacation here? Would you travel to see this family member?’ I always refer them to the dashboard,” said Sheri Lewis, an expert in Global Disease Surveillance.

With a new building providing an additional quarter of a million square feet of space, Governor Larry Hogan says the sky is the limit for the Applied Physics Lab.

“This is an amazing facility doing incredible things in many different fields, but one of the things we toured today was some of the work that they’ve been doing on COVID, particularly on sequencing,” said Hogan. “That’s something that Maryland is leading the nation in.”

So while the facility is exploring everything from artificial intelligence and planetary defense to climate change and space exploration, it is also taking a leading role in addressing the pandemic, which challenges us today and in planning for any others in our tomorrow.

“There are a number of silver linings of COVID, and I think we have learned so much more that will help prepare us for the future,” added Lewis.