Montana Public Radio

Rocky Mountain Labs


Protests against how the state and federal government is handling coronavirus have surged across the country and in Montana. Most recently, animal rights protestors gathered outside Rocky Mountain Labs in Hamilton where scientists are hard at work on a vaccine. But public opposition to scientific efforts has a long history in Montana. 

The entrance at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT.
National Institutes of Health - Public Domain

A federal government lab nestled in a town of 5,000 people in the Bitterroot Valley is responsible for finding the first vaccines for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, manufacturing the nation’s supply of yellow fever vaccines during World War II and helping to develop a lifesaving Ebola vaccine as the disease debilitated West Africa.

Now Rocky Mountain Labs is turning its attention to COVID-19.

Postdoctoral researcher Anna Nemudraia works with wastewater samples in Blake Wiedenheft’s lab at Montana State University.
Courtesy Anna Nemudraia

While some research is plagued by uncertainty and has ground to a halt, COVID-19 has fast-tracked other innovative experiments and spawned new collaborations.

This is the first in a series looking at the push and pull of the novel coronavirus pandemic on science in Montana.

White-tailed deer.

People around the world, especially those who eat venison, are worried Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) might one day spread from animals to humans. But researchers at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton say evidence suggests that’s not going to happen.