New GPB-GRA television program showcases research in Georgia

By Maria Saporta

It’s the beginning of flu season — and Georgia researchers are on the cutting edge of advances on how to protect people from influenza.

The researchers are the stars of a half-hour pilot episode of a new partnership between the Georgia Research Alliance and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“The Future Files” — with a tagline: “Inventing Tomorrow in Georgia Today” — will debut at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13 on GPB. The hope is that this will be the first of a 13-part series that will highlight Georgia’s scientists and researchers and how they are changing our world.

Teya Ryan, GPB’s president and executive director, said the producers of the pilot “created a story” to describe the dangers of a possible flue pandemic and what research is being done to protect people from the next worldwide epidemic.

One researcher showcases the “painless” injection with micro needles that inject the vaccine in the skin. By removing the prospect of a long needle, it is expected that people would be much more willing to be vaccinated against the flu.

Another researcher has come up with a way to almost instantaneously know which strains of the flu are in the population, making it much easier to develop real-time ways to treat an outbreak. And another researcher is looking at vaccines that can treat the “stem” of influenza, which could be used as a universal treatment — no matter what strain of flu is involved.

At a VIP screening Monday evening to preview the pilot, Ryan said it cost about $100,000 to produce the program. If funding can be secured, Ryan said the plan is that the episode on influenza will be the first of 13 half-hour programs.

For the Georgia Research Alliance, the goal is to give the public a better understanding of all the research and development of new medicines and technology that is underway in the state. The public-private agency is a partnership between the state government, Georgia’s six research universities and top business leaders focused on advancing the quality of research in the state.

“We want to address big problems like this,” said Mike Cassidy, GRA’s president, of the endeavor. Other programs could feature the rising costs of fuel and advances in energy; the latest in cancer research, the issues of internet security — all areas of strength for Georgia’s research institutions.

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