Weill Cornell and Cornell University Dedicate Biodiversity Lab at Punta Cana

Facility on Punta Cana Ecological Foundation Reserve to Be Vital Part of Program in Complementary and Integrative Medicine<br /><br />Congressman Charles Rangel and Dominican President Mejia to Speak

Mar 17, 2001


A delegation of dignitaries, scientists, and media representatives will dedicate the Cornell Biodiversity Laboratory at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on March 17. The lab, located on a 1,555-acre ecological reserve set aside by the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, will allow scientists and students from Cornell University and from Weill Cornell Medical College's Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine to perform innovative research on how natural herbal and botanical products can benefit human health.

Headed by Dr. Eloy Rodriguez, the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies at Cornell University and a leading plant chemist, the laboratory is a large facility that could be used for the study and preservation of Caribbean island plants, animals, and marine and microbial organisms. In partnership with Weill Cornell's newly established Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CCIM), which is directed by Dr. Mary Charlson, the lab will perform basic research to identify, isolate, and evaluate botanical and herbal products that may be promising as medicines. The lab will also work in synergy with the clinical, research, and educational components of CCIM. CCIM faculty, scientists, and students will play a significant role in the lab's activities.

Theodore Kheel—a co-owner of the Punta Cana Resort and Club, a Cornell alumnus, and a supporter of ecological programs—arranged for the building of the laboratory and its renting to Cornell for $1 a year. He will be a speaker at the ceremony.

Other distinguished speakers include Hipolito Mejia, President of the Dominican Republic, and Charles Rangel, Congressman from New York.

CCIM, which Weill Cornell established last year, is dedicated to the proposition that medicine has much to learn from the complementary methods of other cultures, many of which are represented in the diverse population of New York City itself, and that the riches of the tropical world may include many natural products that may yet prove valuable in the practice of medicine.

CCIM proposes to study these complementary methods and these new products according to the highest standards of science, integrating them with the existing remedies of academic Western medicine.

"What works?" and "How do we know?" are two questions that CCIM and the new Biodiversity Lab intend to answer.

Besides Drs. Rodriguez and Charlson and Messrs. Kheel, Mejia, and Rangel, the speakers at the dedication ceremony include: Susan Henry, Dean of the Cornell College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Frank Moya Pons, Dominican Secretary of State for the Environment and Natural Resources; Hugo Tolintino, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Frank R. Rainieri, President of the Fundaciun Ecologica Punta Cana.

Dr. Charlson, who directs CCIM, is the William T. Foley Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, at Weill Cornell.