High-Level Biosafety Laboratory Established


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Front-lines in the battle against disease


More detailed research on potentially dangerous microorganisms will now be possible at the Institute thanks to the new Marcel Mérieux Foundation Biohazard-P3 Laboratory, established last month on the Weizmann campus. The environmentally isolated facility will enable a major scaling-up of biomedical studies in various important fields.

Among the microorganisms already being studied at the Institute are disease-inducing viruses such as hepatitis B; bacteria such as pertussis and shigella; and parasites such as leishmania and amoeba. By providing safe containment of these organisms and of the infectious nucleic acids, plasmids and recombinant DNA introduced into them, the new laboratory enables the study of far greater quantities of these disease-inducing vectors, as well as more pathogenic varieties. In addition, it makes it possible to conduct new avenues of AIDS-related research at the Institute, including direct investigation of the HIV virus and of blood from people with AIDS.

The sophisticated engineering features of the facility include specialized ventilation systems, a controlled access zone separating the laboratory from areas open to the public, disinfectant showers and a fumigation system.

The new P3 laboratory is headed by Prof. Gideon Berke of the Department of Cell Biology, who has been in charge of the Institute's Safety Services Unit for the past decade. "The Institute," says Berke, "has always given top priority to the safety of both our own personnel and the community at large, and the establishment of the facility is a reflection of this policy. Moreover, it enables Institute researchers to engage in every type of research on the front line of the battle against infectious disease. Hospitals and biomedical companies have already expressed an interest in utilizing the P3 laboratory for new collaborative projects with the Institute."

The Biohazard-P3 Laboratory was provided to the Institute by the Marcel Mérieux Foundation in Lyon, France. Its creator, the late Marcel Mérieux, an associate of Louis Pasteur, was a producer of vaccines and blood products for human and veterinary medicine. Formerly directed by Dr. Charles Mérieux, Marcel's son and the founder of the Pasteur-Mérieux-Weizmann Committee in Lyon, the Foundation is now under the directorship of Marcel's grandson Alain.

Prof. Berke holds the Isaac and Elsa Bourla Chair of Cancer Research.