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All roads still lead to the Mahoning Valley

For as long as I can remember, we’ve had a light-hearted saying in our newsroom: “All roads lead to the Mahoning Valley.”

It originated because reporters and editors here always have marveled at how every big national news story seems to have some amazing connection to our Valley.

When the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated Feb. 1, 2003, as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, on board was an experiment involving internet communications equipment prepared by Warren native and Western Reserve High School graduate astronaut Ron Parise.

Remember the LPGA’s tour that used to pass through the Valley? It was during the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic tour stop that professional golfer Kim Williams was shot as she entered Phar-Mor looking for baby oil for her putter. It later was determined the shooting was accidental, and due to the bullet’s sensitive location in her neck, doctors decided not to remove it. As far as I know, it’s still there.

Remember the 2011 nationally televised trial of Casey Anthony in the death of her 3-year-old daughter in Orlando, Florida? Yep, Casey Anthony’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony were long-time Trumbull County residents. George had served for many years as a Trumbull County sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s.

Of course, we all know the stories of local mobsters with national connections.

And let’s not forget all the championship collegiate coaches that hail from the Mahoning Valley or all the legends that were born here like Parise, attorney Clarence Darrow and musician David Grohl.

Frankly, the list goes on and on.

So, it came as no surprise when, a few weeks ago, incredible connections came to light about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As it turns out, a Texas A&M virologist who grew up in Niles and graduated from Niles McKinley High School played an instrumental role in assigning COVID-19 its official name, SARS CoV-2, better known as SARS Coronavirus Two.

“I was on the committee that officially named it,” Dr. Benjamin Neuman, chairman of biological sciences at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, told our reporter a couple of weeks ago.

Neuman, 45, is the son of Doug Neuman, a probate and real estate attorney in Niles; and Billie Porter Neuman, a probate paralegal. He graduated from Niles McKinley High School in 1992, and we can be proud to say that he got his start in biology right here.

Doug Neuman reflected on the fossils, insects, tadpoles and injured birds the boy would bring home to study.

“He has always been interested in learning more about things. Several good teachers in Niles encouraged him,” his father said recently. “Billie and I are amused that he has seriously pursued knowledge about coronaviruses for more than 20 years, but the general public had no interest in the topic. Until SARS-CoV-2 arrived, only the other serious coronavirologists knew about Ben and his work. … We are proud of how he is using his abilities to benefit others.”

Incredible, isn’t it?

And yet, the COVID connections don’t end there.

Just a littler further down the road is NanoLogix, a local biotech company that may be the first to have developed a faster, more efficient test to screen for COVID-19.

The company that operates a lab in a nondescript building right along the beaten path in downtown Hubbard also developed a faster, more efficient test to detect the Ebola virus during that epidemic in West Africa.

Today, NanoLogix officials say they’ve completed testing of novel coronavirus technology that will reduce detection time for the virus from an average of three to five days down to less than one hour.

The company was planning to apply for a patent last week on the technology that can be configured for point-of-care use in doctors’ offices and also for individual use, said Bret Barnhizer, president and CEO of NanoLogix.

Not all connections to the Valley are ones many of us might want to brag about, but as I see it, those couple of COVID connections are worth writing home about.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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