India prepares to open bio-safety level four lab

According to a top ranking official for the Indian Council of Medical Research, the level four bio-safety lab at the National Institute of Virology will be commissioned in a few months.

V M Katoch, the director-general of the council and the secretary of the Department of Health Research, said on Thursday that the lab would be the first in the county with the ability to study the most dangerous viruses, including highly infectious pathogenic agents like smallpox, hemorrhagic fever, Lassa, anthrax and Ebola, Indian Express reports.

N K Ganguly, the former director of the ICMR, was one of the key figures behind the push for the laboratory. This was due to several crises in India, including dangerous pathogens like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus.

"We wanted to make reagents and our requests to BSL-4 laboratories outside the country were not entertained," Ganguly said, according to Indian Express. "That's when we decided to set up our own facility and partnered with the Department of Science and Technology for the effort."

Bio-safety levels measure the degree of containment precautions that are necessary to isolate dangerous biological agents ranging from the lowest, BSL-1, to the highest, BSL-4. Bio-safety suits have been imported and scientists will be trained on how to effectively operate a BSL-4 lab.

"This laboratory will not just be the first in the country, but the only one in Southeast Asia," A C Mishra, the director of the NIV, said, according to Indian Express.