TNO Triskelion lab now able to test vaccines against deadly viruses

Facility upgrade to BSL-3 level answers growing global demand for testing facilities

The introduction of a Bio Safety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility and the development of special testing techniques have enabled contract research organisation TNO Triskelion, based in Zeist, the Netherlands, to test vaccines against deadly viruses such as avian flu and SARS.

The facility also allows new vaccines against rapidly mutating (avian) influenza viruses to reach the public sooner.

TNO Triskelion carries out research activities for the pharmaceutical, chemical and food industries. The CRO's facility was recently upgraded to BSL-3 level and accredited by Public Health England (PHE), so that all class 3 viruses and bacteria deadly to humans – from HIV to tuberculosis, and from avian influenza to SARS – can be studied in conformity with Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).

On a worldwide scale the testing capacity for vaccines against these viruses is extremely limited.

'There are few BSL-3 labs that can do this in compliance with GLP standards, whereas the demand of the pharmaceutical industry is increasing,' said immunologist John Dulos, Senior Project Manager Pharma at TNO Triskelion.

'There is a growing need to develop new drugs and treatments against viral infectious diseases. With this upgrade we increase the testing capacity. If more drugs can be tested, new vaccines can be introduced sooner.'

Among other things, the BSL-3 facility will be used for research into avian flu. The Avian Influenza A Virus H7N9 recently appeared in China, taking 40 lives. Virus H5N1 has been active since 1997, H7N7 has affected humans since 2008, and recently a woman in China died from H10N8. The viruses spread mostly from animals to man. If avian flu evolves into a virus that transmits from person to person, it brings with it the threat of a worldwide pandemic.

Examples of previous pandemics are the Spanish flu in 1918 (40 to 50 million casualties), the Hong Kong flu in 1968 (1 to 2 million casualties) and the Mexican flu in 2009 (250,000 casualties).

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