‘India’s first bio-safety lab at NIV to be a reality soon’

The National Institute of Virology’s bio-safety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory,which will store highly dangerous viruses,will be commissioned in a few months,Dr V M Katoch,director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research and secretary,Department of Health Research,said on Thursday.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: February 3, 2012 1:09 am

The National Institute of Virology’s bio-safety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory,which will store highly dangerous viruses,will be commissioned in a few months,Dr V M Katoch,director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and secretary,Department of Health Research,said on Thursday.

Katoch,who was in Pune to attend the diamond jubilee celebrations of NIV at the institute’s microbial containment centre campus at Pashan,told The Indian Express that this would be the first laboratory in the country to have the unique capability of tackling the most dangerous viruses. There has been no delay in commissioning the laboratory and the Rs 55-crore lab will be commissioned in a few months.

Highly infectious pathogenic agents of diseases like ebola,anthrax,lassa,haemorrhagic fever and smallpox (variola virus) will be stored in a facility akin to a heavily guarded bank vault to conduct tests,Dr A C Mishra,director of NIV said. A series of precautionary measures have to be taken to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility,Mishra said.

Prof N K Ganguly,former director-general of ICMR was the key person to push for such a laboratory. He said they faced several crises,when dangerous pathogens like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus and others were detected. “We wanted to make reagents and our requests to BSL-4 laboratories outside the country were not entertained. That’s when we decided to set up our own facility and partnered with the Department of Science and Technology for the effort,” Ganguly said.

Bio-safety levels measure the extent of containment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest,BSL-1,to the highest,BSL-4. Bio-safety suits resembling space suits,with a dedicated oxygen line,have been imported and scientists have been trained on how to operate a BSL-4 lab. “This laboratory will not just be the first in the country,but the only one in Southeast Asia,” says Mishra.

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