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New biosafety level 3 laboratory at UEF safeguards Finland’s domestic vaccine production

Kuopio will witness the building of a new, nationally unique laboratory environment where it is possible to process highly hazardous biological agents, such as coronaviruses.

The Regional Council of North Savo has granted 650,000 euros of ERDF funding to the University of Eastern Finland from the REACT-EU call to a set of projects to build a biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory in the university’s facilities. Biosafety level 3 laboratories are high-containment laboratories where it is possible to process biological agents that pose a high risk to humans, animals, the environment, or society. The processing of coronaviruses, for example, must be done in a biosafety level 3 laboratory.

According to Senior Researcher Petri Mäkinen who is responsible for leading the project, the new laboratory will safeguard Finland’s domestic vaccine production. The laboratory can be used for preclinical development and testing of vaccines that are based on novel technologies, allowing a quick response to possible future pandemics.

Thanks to their quickly modifiable manufacturing technique, new gene and RNA vaccines have made a breakthrough during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finland, too, is home to top level research and development in the pharmaceutical sector, which has enabled the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 that is based on gene transfer technology.

“Current vaccines against COVID-19 provide protection against the coronavirus disease and, in particular, its serious forms. However, mutated strains can bypass the vaccine and cause new waves of infection. Vaccines against COVID-19 must therefore be updated regularly. New vaccine development techniques enable rapid reaction to new strains and even to completely new pandemics,” Mäkinen says.

The set of projects consists of an investment project that sets up the biosafety level 3 laboratory at the University of Eastern Finland, and of a development project that tests the functionality of the laboratory in two pilots and plans its maximal future use.

Not only will the biosafety level 3 laboratory support vaccine development and testing in the future, it will also provide essential support for academic virology and microbiology research, thus creating significant growth opportunities for the Kuopio region.

Besides companies operating in the Kuopio area, Kuopio University Hospital, researchers and students of the University of Eastern Finland and, indirectly, the Kuopio Health ecosystem, the laboratory also serves other universities and research institutes both in Finland and abroad.

REACT-EU funding is targeted at regions’ recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The ERDF funding granted by the Regional Council of North Savo from the REACT-EU call is directed at projects promoting research and innovation activities, for example, to the rapid development of health care products and innovations.

For further information, please contact:

Senior Researcher Petri Mäkinen, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 40 3553683, petri.makinen (at) uef.fi

Research Manager Emilia Kansanen, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 50 321 7972, emilia.kansanen (at) uef.fi

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