New High Level Pathogen Research Facility Slated to Open in China

By: Sam Garnett

February 24, 2017

The global network of Biological Safety Level 4 (BSL-4) pathogen research facilities is set to expand, with a new facility in Wuhan, China, expected to be approved soon. The facility would be the first of its kind in mainland China. Chinese government accreditation agencies have inspected the lab’s infrastructure and personnel, and the lab now awaits approval by the Ministry of Health.

The study of BSL-4 level pathogens has expanded over the past 36 years since the first was opened in Japan, to facilities in Europe, the US, and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada. Chinese scientists, many being trained at a facility in Lyon, France, look forward to the opportunity to provide their insight and resources to the global effort to combat dangerous infectious disease and potential pandemics. International efforts certainly aid the study of the genetics and epidemiology of these diseases in different populations. However, such facilities are not without controversy; they also raise questions about geopolitics and biological weapons development. Some scientists argue that the construction of additional facilities in America and Europe were already unnecessary, and China already has plans to expand their network, in efforts to match output in research. Chinese facilities also have more leeway to engage in primate research, a prospect that raises some potential safety concerns, while also lending the potential for interesting data. None the less, lab director Yuan Zhiming tells Nature that, “[The lab] will be a key node in the global biosafety-lab network,” and reminds us that, “Viruses don’t know borders.”

Read more at Nature News