Trudeau-Clarkson partnership sounds promising

One of the biggest surprises of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Adirondack visit Wednesday was the announcement of a partnership between Trudeau Institute of Saranac Lake, Clarkson University of Potsdam and the state.

The idea is to meld Trudeau’s infectious disease expertise and Clarkson’s high-tech work into a biotech enterprise. That, we’re told, will include research into the use of fine particles for medicine, pharmacy, biotech, nanotech and bioengineering. We hope to figure out soon what exactly these fine particles are and how they might be used. If Saranac Lakers are to stake a big chunk of their future on this science, we need to learn more about it.

Meanwhile, Trudeau needs something like this. The federal government hasn’t been funding its research like it used to, and the institute’s payroll is now down to 80 people from 130 just four years ago.

Whether the federal government realizes it or not, Trudeau is deeply valuable. Its work is important to the health and knowledge of people worldwide. Tuberculosis – what Trudeau is most famous for investigating – is still a worldwide killer, far from tamed, and the institute also studies many other deadly ailments. Without research, there can be no cures.

For Saranac Lake, the institute’s presence is vital to the village’s economy, to its legacy as a pioneering health hub and to its future as a biotech-health cluster. Thankfully, after an internal crisis a few years ago, the institute’s board re-committed to staying here. Now we have to make sure that decision was not akin to buying a cemetery plot.

We believe Trudeau and its staff have what it takes to thrive here for a long time, but in the modern scientific world it needs to match that with other institutions doing complementary work.

On the surface – which is all we can see right now – Clarkson seems like an appropriate and dynamic partner. The university is known for its strong science culture, and it has already invested a fair bit of money trying to add a visible presence in Saranac Lake, although at first it had a hard time fitting in. We hope it finds a great fit with Trudeau.

Of course, Trudeau still needs cash, so it’s good the state has agreed to put $35 million into this partnership over five years. New York isn’t used to funding scientific research the way the National Institutes of Health do; rather, it does so through its universities. Clarkson isn’t a state college, but it seems like a better fit for Trudeau than the SUNY schools in the North Country.

This deal will almost certainly sustain and create jobs at these locally rooted institutions, and it will lure more firms to Saranac Lake’s emerging cluster of biotech companies. Overall, we think it’s a creative idea that makes good sense all around.