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A containment laboratory 3 propels research on COVID-19 and other pathogens

March 10, 2021 | Sophie Laberge

Update : March 12, 2021

The Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) inaugurates its new Level 3 laboratory (CL3), which propels research on numerous pathogens. CL3 will enable research teams to handle pathogens of concern to public health in Quebec and around the world, such as SARS-CoV-2, West Nile virus and the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, in safe conditions.

Laboratoire de confinement 3 INRS

This leading-edge laboratory, located at the Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre of INRS, is directed by Professor Laurent Chatel-Chaix. It will allow in vitro research on several high-risk pathogens under infectious conditions close to those of the diseases they cause.

A promising infrastructure

With an INRS investment of nearly $300,000, the laboratory will allow INRS to continue to stand out as a leader in health research, in addition to fostering collaboration with academic and private partners.

“The past year has demonstrated the importance of research to ensure the well-being of societies and populations. To meet today’s public health challenges, it is essential to provide our research teams with the best scientific facilities so that they can evolve in an environment conducive to the development of knowledge.”

Luc-Alain Giraldeau, Chief Executive Officer

“This leading-edge research environment will foster interdisciplinary and collaborative research, sharing of knowledge and tools, creativity and know-how. In addition, it will contribute in the training of the next generation of high-level health researchers,” added INRS Director of Research Pascale Champagne. “In the very short term, INRS researchers will be able to begin their work in these facilities. There are, among others, two projects funded by the internal financial support program for research on COVID-19 that require a containment level 3 laboratory. ”

Professors Alain Lamarre and Steven Laplante with their “Combined SARS-CoV-2 treatments” project, will test the therapeutic efficacy of a bank of molecules, already safe for the human body and accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. In addition, Professors Géraldine Delbès and Laurence Charton also have a project underway as part of this program launched in January 2021. The project ” Perinatal and transition to parenthood during COVID-19 – from the social level to the molecular level” will focus on the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on placental functions. Professor Chatel-Chaix will participate in the work of these two research teams, among others, in the CL3 laboratory.

Laurent Chatel Chaix, professeur INRS
This leading-edge laboratory is directed by Professor Laurent Chatel-Chaix.

“Access to a level 3 laboratory, accredited by the Public Health Agency of Canada, is a way to remain leaders in fields such as virology or immunology. Above all, this certification will allow us to complete research cycles by pushing them to the next stage, i.e. in vitro research. We will thus be able to collaborate with external partners, providing them with the safe facilities they need to develop new drugs or vaccines.”

Claude Guertin, Director of the Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre

A CL3 laboratory also allows an increase in the spectrum of pathogen types that the various INRS teams will be able to study.

The CL3 with controlled access

Containment level 3 (CL3) allows the handling of risk group 3 agents, i.e. pathogens, including those transmissible through air. Although they generally have a low infectious dose, it is sufficient to cause serious or even fatal disease. “The laboratory received its CL3 accreditation in February of this year. The accreditation requires that the facility meets design standards and a number of stringent measures, including inward directional airflow only, high-efficiency filters to treat the exhausted air, and other stringent requirements,” Mr. Guertin adds.

Laboratoire de confinement 3 INRS

“Pathogens that will be studied generally cause serious human illness or have serious consequences for public health and the economy,” warns Professor Chatel-Chaix.“Right now, we’re talking a lot about SARS-CoV-2, for obvious reasons. But while the scientific exploits of COVID-19 illustrate all the human genius in a syringe, the discovery of vaccines against COVID-19 is part of an upstream research process that began in academia many years ago. What we will do in this CL3 laboratory may therefore be a precursor to new discoveries for West Nile virus, tuberculosis or any other emerging or resurgent pathogens in the future”.

For security reasons, the number of people who will have access to this laboratory is therefore extremely limited and subject to several hours of training for high-level staff. Among them, Tania Charpentier and Anaïs Anton, supervisors of CL3, Mireille Cartier, biosafety officer at INRS, and Laurent Chatel-Chaix. They will ensure compliance with the rules in place and will carry out the first experiments. The team will also be responsible for providing theoretical and practical training of several hours to any person who will need access to it for their research.

Photos of the laboratory and of Professor Laurent Chatel-Chaix: © INRS