European Training and Research Centre for Imported and Highly Contagious Diseases
To ensure that the European Union is able to respond appropriately to the possible misuse of biological agents or outbreaks of rare, but deadly tropical diseases, secure and safe laboratories should be provided, and they should possess the associated research competencies required to develop and maintain expertise in this field. The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI) in Hamburg (Germany) is an internationally recognised centre of such expertise and is host to one of only six biosafety level 4 labs (BSL 4) in the EU.
The BNI has received planning permission for a 5 000 m2 building extension to house BSL 4 and BSL 3 laboratories, and a remodelled treatment centre for viral haemorrhagic fevers. By that means, it would create an interdisciplinary research centre environment unique in Europe.
The extension is to be financed by German government authorities and will receive additional financial resources from the Support for Research Infrastructures Programme, which permit the optimal equipping of the facility. Central to the project is the erection of an extension building of 5 000 m2 housing stateof- the-art BSL 3 and 4 laboratories, specific pathogen-free animal husbandry and a BSL 3 insectary. BSL 4 is the highest laboratory safety category and is reserved for diagnostics and research on highly contagious pathogens causing life-threatening disease, such as Lassa or Ebola virus. Some of these pathogens have occasionally been imported into European countries and BNI receives about 40 samples of suspect cases Europe-wide each year. The BSL 3 insectary will allow studies on mosquitoborne diseases like malaria, dengue or West Nile fever.
The EUTRICOD project also includes a treatment centre for management of highly contagious diseases, which is to be operated by the Bernhard Nocht Clinic at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf. Thirdly, the Ghanaian Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) will be technically upgraded with a BSL 3 laboratory to study tropical viruses of the area.[+] Read More
Fig 1: Outward design of the extension building (left) and its relation to the main building of BNI (right) The extension is slightly removed from the main building and is mainly accessed by means of a two-storey bridge which connects the old building to the new building on the first and second floor (above ground level). As a transparent steel and glass construction, this bridge has a subtle appearance to allow for the view of the gable of the old building. The extension of the historic main building dating from 1914 and its prominent position above the jetty at Hamburg Port, make particular demands on the design of the building. Following on from the surrounding buildings, the walls of the building are covered with dark clinker. As this is a free-standing building with a sculptural aspect, the clinker material of the walls continues onto the roof area. Apart from uniformly covering the exterior surfaces on all sides with clinker, an exceptional feature of the design are the windows. All the windows on the upper floors are constructed in two parts, comprising one large window, which allows for views and daylight, and an additional light panel above. Drawing by Kister, Scheithauer, Gross of Cologne
Fig 2: Section through the seven floors of the extension building The lower basement level is designed for animal breeding and features individually disinfectable stables and climate control systems to achieve a specific pathogen free environment (SPF). The upper basement level is for animal experimentation. The ground floor is designed to host the BSL 4 and BSL 3 units for virological research. The 1st floor is designed for molecular virology studies with BSL 2 laboratories and offices. The 2nd and 3rd floors will host parasitological research and each comprise a BSL 3 laboratory, BSL 2 laboratories, offices and cold rooms. Special constructions are fitted for a microscopy unit, the BSL 3 insectary and a video conference room located on the 3rd floor. Central technical installations are located on the 4th floor and the upper basement level. Drawing by architects Kister, Scheithauer, Gross of Cologne
Due to the current perceived international security threats, several EU Member States are considering establishing BSL 4 facilities. It is not clear that such facilities are needed or can be established in many centres around Europe, and indeed for security and safety reasons this may not be desirable. Instead, investment in central facilities to maintain international leadership and open up access to researchers is, for Europe as a whole, a more optimal strategy in line with the key objectives of the programme as well as the development of the European Research Area (ERA).
To sustain and extend BNI research capacities and achieve international recognition as a European Training and Research Centre for Imported and Highly Contagious Diseases (EUTRICOD).
The project will contribute to the development of the European research area in the following ways:
From 2009, the new facilities offer the scientific community a unique assembly of know-how, modern high-security laboratories and excellent training conditions, as well as support for clinical studies in West Africa. EUTRICOD will enhance European preparedness for outbreaks of new and highly infectious diseases by extending capacities for diagnostics and treatment, as well as building capability for qualified staff.