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Sen. Robert Menendez visits Hackensack Meridian Health's Center for Discovery and Innovation to Discuss Coronavirus Preparedness

The Center for Discovery and Innovation is developing a rapid-test response for the virus that is sweeping the globe

EDISON, N.J., Feb. 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey's largest and most comprehensive health network, hosted U.S. Senator Robert Menendez at the network's Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), where leading researchers are developing a rapid response test to diagnose the coronavirus known as COVID-19, which is sweeping the globe and has reached California.

From today’s coronavirus press conference at the Hackensack Meridian CDI (from left): Dr. Daniel Varga, Dr. David Perlin, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) toured the CDI with Hackensack Meridian Health experts who are also preparing for potential cases in New Jersey. The virus has spread to 48 countries and federal health authorities have warned Americans to prepare for major disruptions in the U.S. while President Trump this week appointed Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the nation's response to a potential outbreak.

"Coronavirus is already in the US and we are preparing for cases in New Jersey," said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. "As the state's largest comprehensive health network, we are positioning ourselves as the leader to mitigate its effects, and also develop innovations which will help in the days and weeks to come."

"Timely diagnostics are critical and we are veterans in this kind of event," said David S. Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI. "Our rapid diagnostic lab has previously been part of the 2003 SARS response, and the 2009 H1N1 response – and most recently the Candida auris outbreak. We're doing our part to get Hackensack Meridian Health, and the state of New Jersey, ready for any viral spread."

"I applaud the great and innovative minds of everyone at Hackensack Meridian's Center for Discovery and Innovation. The work that's done here is vital to our state and nation's health care," said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy. "The United States is capable of answering any challenge – so long as we have the necessary resources and strategy to succeed. I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect the public health of New Jersey families and all Americans. Together we can prevent COVID-19 from turning into a full-blown public health crisis."

The visit started with a tour of the CDI's Institute for Cancer and Infectious Diseases, which is where the work on the new diagnostic will be completed.

Afterward, the senator and Perlin were joined by Daniel Varga, M.D., chief physician executive at Hackensack Meridian Health, to give an update on the health network's preparation.

"We can all do our part to prepare for the coming of the virus," said Varga. "There will be tests of providing access, and delivering care in response to any outbreaks. But with innovative approaches like telemedicine and other strategic uses of our resources, we will keep spread minimal, and treat the ill to the best of our ability."

The CDI built COVID-19 diagnostic assays several weeks ago but is still awaiting validating samples. Perlin and his team established two tests: one recommended by the CDC, and another one by a prominent group in Germany that is being adopted in Europe.

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH 
Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children's hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals – JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick. Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 34,100 team members, and 6,500 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network's notable distinctions include having four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker's Healthcare's "150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019" list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it. Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

For additional information, please visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR DISCOVERY AND INNOVATION
The Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), a newly established member of Hackensack Meridian Health, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions. The CDI, housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, offers world-class researchers a support infrastructure and culture of discovery that promotes science innovation and rapid translation to the clinic.

Hackensack Meridian Health (PRNewsfoto/Hackensack Meridian Health)
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SOURCE Hackensack Meridian Health