Poland's state-of-the-art BSL-3+ laboratory completed

The first BSL-3+ laboratory in northern Poland is about to begin work. On January 22, the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG held the official opening of a unique space where research into, among other things, coronavirus and tick-borne encephalitis virus will be conducted. The Minister of Science and Higher Education, Dariusz Wieczorek, congratulated UG on the new unit.

Due to the risks associated with working on live viruses, there are many safeguards in place in the laboratory, including a separate wastewater treatment plant, special entry sluices and sterilisation chambers, or the requirement to wear specialised suits. These and other elements determine the laboratory's biosafety level (BSL). The new space at IFB UG and MUG has been classified as BSL-3+ (on a scale of 1 to 4). In Poland, a BSL-4 laboratory does not yet exist.

Wręczenie medalu

The Rector of the University of Gdańsk, prof. dr hab. Piotr Stepnowski opened the ceremony by briefly introducing the scientific and popularisation activities of the head of the laboratory, prof. dr hab. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk. The Rector emphasised that it is to Mrs Bieńkowska-Szewczyk's determination that we owe the creation of the laboratory, and presented her with the Silver Medal of the University of Gdańsk Doctrinae Sapientiae Honestati.

‘Today, at our Faculty, we are opening a state-of-the-art BSL-3+ laboratory, which is at the same time the only one of its kind in northern Poland,' said IFB UG and MUG Dean dr hab. Ewelina Król, prof. UG‘This space is dedicated to studying the structure, function and spread of highly pathogenic viruses. This means that if future pandemics occur, we will be able to study such viruses under safe conditions.’

Prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska Szewczyk

The creation of the BSL-3+ laboratory results from many years of work by virologists from IFB UG and MUG. Prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, accompanied by her husband, also a virologist, prof. dr hab. Bogusław Szewczyk, talked about the development of this field at our university.

‘We have built up a great deal of potential over the years. We have probably won the most international grants at the university. In 10 years, we have published more than 140 scientific papers and received around 20 patents,' said prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk. ‘Our main research models were herpesviruses, i.e. herpes virus, chickenpox virus, influenza virus, or Zika virus.’

Od lewej: prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, prof. Ewelina Król, dr Michał Rychłowski, prof. Bogusław Szewczyk, dr Łukasz Rąbalski. 

The head of the Department of Molecular Biology of Viruses pointed out that the entire initiative of the laboratory would not have been possible if it were not for her team and invited prof. Ewelina Król, dr Michał Rychłowski, dr Łukasz Rąbalski, and dr Andrea Lipińska to stand beside her.

‘These people we have educated are probably my proudest moments. Many of them are now working in excellent centres, and some are working here with us,' continued prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk. ‘There were never any conflicts between us, and we made a very good team. Gdańsk virology is a special team that deserves a special laboratory. We will show it to you in a moment.’

At the end of the event, scientists from the Department of Molecular Biology of Viruses gave participants a tour of the laboratory and discussed its specifics. The ceremony will be followed by closing and securing the space to act as one of Poland's safest and most sterile laboratories.

You can read more about the laboratory in an interview with prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska Szewczyk or watch the popular science film.

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Submitted on Wednesday, 6. March 2024 - 10:23 by Maria Maja Pega Changed on Wednesday, 6. March 2024 - 10:27 by Maria Maja Pega