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Franklin Cockerill - Tests for Anthrax

Franklin Cockerill has spent the majority of his illustrious career associated in some way with Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. With Mayo Clinic he served as a Clinical Microbiologist, has been the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and has been the CEO and President of Mayo Collaborative Services, an organization that is the largest for-profit company in association with Mayo Clinical.

Frank Cockerill enjoys playing the piano, running marathons, during his free time.


Franklin Cockerill spent many of the early years of his career focused on the study of infectious diseases. The change of professional focus to clinical microbiology is recent. Cockerill imagines himself someday moving to a leadership position with a small startup company in biotechnology, a senior position in a large diagnostics or laboratory testing company.

One of Franklin Cockerill’s greatest contributions to medicine came in 2001. Cockerill headed a team at the Mayo Clinic whose goal was to develop a rapid and easily performed test for the diagnosis of anthrax. After the airline terrorism events of September 11th against the United States, an outbreak of anthrax wreaked fear among US residents, especially on the East Coast. Cockerill and his team were focused on finding a way to accurately and rapidly diagnose anthrax in order to ensure expedient treatment for infected individuals. High mortality occurs in patients infected with anthrax, if they do not receive the appropriate treatment in a timely fashion. The team successfully created the test, making it possible to identify the presence of anthrax in less than one hour. The test became readily available to testing laboratories across the country.



Franklin Cockerill - Sigma Xi

As a prominent microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Franklin Cockerill has served the majority of his professional career as a staff member with Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Franklin Cockerill focused his early career on internal medicine and infectious diseases. Later, Cockerill switched his focus to clinical microbiology. He served two successful terms as the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. He also was the CEO and President of Mayo Collaborative Services, the largest for-profit organization in association with Mayo Clinic.

Franklin Cockerill oversaw the planning and execution of the largest single laboratory information system in the US.

Franklin Cockerill is a member of Sigma Xi. Sigma Xi is a scientific research society and international honor society of science and engineering. Sigma Xi added Franklin Cockerill as a member in 1985; the organization is one of the oldest scientific organizations in the world. Sigma Xi honors excellence in scientific investigation and promotes companionship and cooperation in all fields of science and engineering. There are nearly 60,000 members and more than 500 chapters of Sigma Xi in the world.

Franklin Cockerill also served other high profile extramural leadership positions. He served as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing, Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), Chair of the Microbiology Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee of the United States Food and Drug Administration, as well as a Council Member and Program Director of the Association for Molecular Pathology. Cockerill also served as the Director of the American Clinical Laboratory Association Board and the Director of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.



Franklin Cockerill - Anthrax Testing

Franklin Cockerill is at the forefront of the microbiology field. The internationally known researcher is credited with spearheading the research effort to develop a new rapid anthrax test. The airline terrorist attacks of September 11th, deepened awareness that other forms of terrorism were eminent, including the use of highly infectious agents like anthrax.

                                           Franklin Cockerill oversaw the planning and execution of the largest single laboratory information system in the US.

Franklin Cockerill foresaw this threat of “bioterrorism” early on, even before the September airline attacks.  His research team was already involved long before September 11, 2001, in the development of fast and reliable test methods for anthrax. Ultimately, a rapid test for anthrax was made available in collaboration with Roche Diagnostics by the end of 2001.

"The first thing people want to know in a case of suspected exposure is whether the agent was in fact anthrax," Frank Cockerill said at the time. "Until now, local labs have been able to quickly determine the presence of a bacterium, but they can’t tell whether it is anthrax or not. The current process to identify the presence of anthrax may take several days. The events of the last several weeks require as rapid a response as possible." He added that by rapidly identifying anthrax exposure, doctors can begin treating the exposed patient faster than had previously been possible.

The breakthrough was a huge step forward for the United States, as a rapid response to the bio-terrorism was necessary. For this work as the team leader of the testing team, Franklin Cockerill was granted the Mayo Excellence Through Teamwork Award soon after creating the test.