Let’s face it, if there is another pandemic, we must be better prepared. Not just with increased biopharma manufacturing capacity but for studying emerging infectious diseases in the fallout of climate change. High containment facilities that protect medical personnel from accidental exposure and the world from airborne contagion.
Last year, we were proud to win a competitive bid for a prestigious Government project at the Autonomous State Medical College. BSL 3 laboratory in Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. The lab would be a multi-purpose diagnostic and R&D centre to conduct Covid-19 tests.
What are BSL labs
BSL labs conduct a wide range of research geared to elucidating, finding treatments for and preventing infectious diseases.
Bio-Safety Levels (BSL) requirements that vary from scale 1 to 4 are based on the organisms and microbes, infectivity, and severity of the disease being researched and executed in the laboratory. Therefore, each BSL scale exhibits more specific controls for the containment of microbes and biological agents than its previous level. That is to say, adding more protective layers guarantees more effective protection of the laboratory personnel, work environment and ultimately, the entire community.
BSL 3 considers the potential for aerosol transmission that involves exposure of individuals to air toxins which can result in lethal diseases through inhalation. Thus, clinical research and testing of airborne diseases such as SarS-Covid-19 is applicable in the BSL 3 laboratory, where work practices are performed in bio-contained environments. This facility calls for stringent protocols, viz. double door access, PPE, HEPA filters etc.
Here is a brief quick guide on the 4 bio-safety levels
|Bio Safety Level||BSL 1||BSL 2||BSL 3||BSL 4|
|Containment||No Containment||Moderate Containment||High containment under appropriate government agencies with strict medical surveillance of medical personnel||Maximum Containment|
|Pathogen Type||Agents or toxins that are not known to cause disease in healthy adults||Agents or toxins that pose a risk if accidentally inhaled, swallowed, or exposed to the skin||Agents or toxins that may be transmitted through air, causing potentially lethal infection through inhalation||Agents or toxins that pose a high risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease for which no vaccine or therapy is available|
|Sample Organism||E.Coli||Influenza||Tuberculosis, Covid19||Ebola Virus|
Lockdown but no slowdown – Pushing through every roadblock
The project commenced during the Covid-19 pandemic during India’s second wave of lockdowns. Several logistical, workforce and material movement considerations must be understood and mapped. Potential bottlenecks had to be removed to ensure progress on the project was not stymied.
A key consideration was the facility itself. The surge in Covid-19 cases made a BSL3 facility urgent and immediate for the Government of Uttar Pradesh, who quickly allocated space for a BSL 3 lab. However, the area earmarked for the project was meant for an entirely different function initially, which meant we had to work around several structural complexities, including a smaller operating area of 950 sqft. In contrast, the optimum size of the project area for a BSL 3 lab is 1500 sqft.
Since this wasn’t a built-for-purpose facility, the passageway was narrow, there was no service area and the doors were smaller than ideal. Therefore, the first task was a holistic reworking of civil work needed to optimise the space while maintaining the sanctity of the BSL 3 lab environment.
There was no power supply, and the main service station was 650 metres away. Cables and electrical panels would need to be transported amidst one of the tightest lockdowns the world has ever seen.
Murphy’s Law is a constant in every project, as it was in this one. But, even with all the planning, ground realities presented us with a new set of complications. For example, the air handling unit (AHU), an essential prerequisite for setting up a new project, was not in place, which added to the project variables that had to be managed onsite.
A resounding success
Life Engineers are known for never giving up. For staying the course even in the most trying of circumstances. Because when what you do contributes to saving lives, it’s always worth it in the end.
The region’s first BSL-3 lab at the Autonomous State Medical College campus, Shahjahanpur, was inaugurated by Hon’ble Shri Brijesh Pathak, Deputy Chief Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh. We are thankful to the Government of Uttar Pradesh for their trust.
The next BSL-3 facility we’re building is in Noida.