Vaccine testing centre started at BSL-3 lab at IISc

Vaccine testing centre started at BSL-3 lab at Bengaluru's IISc

The mandate of the facility is to support research on highly pathogenic human viruses

A view of the BSL-3 lab at IISc. Credit: IISc

A new Covid-19 Vaccine Testing Centre has been launched at the viral Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) facility in the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research (CIDR) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

In a statement, IISc said that the centre will test solutions to tackle Covid-19, such as vaccines, antiviral drugs, plus materials and equipment for academic and industry partners using a fee-for-service model.

Construction of the BSL-3 facility was completed in October 2020. It became operational in January 2021. The mandate of the facility is to support research on highly pathogenic human viruses.

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Assistant Professor Shashank Tripathi of IISc’s Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology has been designated as the nodal person in charge of the facility which has been made available to academic labs (within and outside IISc) and industry, for training personnel and for carrying out antiviral research.

By February, Tripathi’s lab, which studies emerging viral pathogens, began working on establishing cell culture and animal models to study the novel coronavirus in the viral BSL-3 facility on priority. “This includes isolation, growth and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 viruses from Covid-19 patient samples, and the establishment of a Syrian hamster model for evaluating Covid-19 vaccines and antivirals,” IISc said.

Among the work being carried out at the lab is the use of reagents and models to identify SARS-CoV-2 antivirals, and evaluating the Covid-19 thermostable subunit vaccine candidate being developed by a team under Professor Raghavan Varadarajan, of IISc’s Molecular Biophysics Unit.

In addition, Tripathi’s lab has been helping industry partners GeNext Genomics in evaluating Covid-19 antibodies, Biomoneta in testing sterilisation technologies, and Glycovax in evaluating a Covid-19 peptide conjugate vaccine in animal models.

To expand these operations, funding was received from the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT-BIRAC), as part of its “Mission Covid Suraksha,” which aims to support labs with well-established models to study the novel coronavirus.

IISc said that DBT-BIRAC’s support will allow the augmentation of the existing facility with high-end equipment and initial support for personnel operating the facility. Research will also be conducted to develop high-throughput assays for evaluating antivirals and vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The facility will also support the development of antivirals and vaccines against other viral pathogens responsible for diseases like influenza, dengue, chikungunya and HIV, through similar fee-for-service collaborations with academic and industry partners.

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