(Russia) State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR)
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The State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR, also known as the Vector Institute (Russian: Федеральное бюджетное учреждение науки «Государственный научный центр вирусологии и биотехнологии „Вектор“» федеральной службы по надзору в сфере защиты прав потребителей и благополучия человека (ГНЦ ВБ «Ве́ктор»)), is a biological research center in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia. It has research facilities and capabilities for all levels of Biological Hazard, CDC Levels 1–4. It is one of two official repositories for the now-eradicated smallpox virus,[a] and was part of the system of laboratories known as the Biopreparat.
Recently the facility has been upgraded and secured using modern cameras, motion sensors, fences, and biohazard containment systems. Its relative seclusion makes security an easier task. Since its inception there has been an army regiment guarding the facility.
The facility has, at least in Soviet times, been a nexus for biological warfare research (see Soviet biological weapons program), though the nature of any ongoing research in this area is uncertain.
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Organized in 1974, the center has a long history of virology, making impressive Soviet contribution to smallpox research. Genetic engineering projects included creation of viruses that manufacture toxins as well as research on bioregulators and various peptides that function in the nervous system. In the post-soviet times the center made research and development cotributions in many projects like a vaccine for Hepatitis A, influenza vaccines, vaccines for the Ebola virus, antiviral drugs with nucleotide analogs, test-systems for diagnostics of HIV and Hepatitis B and other development.
In March 2020 it was reported that Russian scientists have begun to test vaccine prototypes for the new coronavirus disease, with the plan of presenting the most effective one in June, a laboratory chief at Vector Institute said. The prototypes have been created and the testing on animals began.
The main tasks of the Center according to Vector:
Basic research of causative agents of especially dangerous and socially important viral infections, and their genetic variability and diversity, pathogenesis of viral infections.
Ensuring constant readiness for implementing diagnostics of especially dangerous infectious agents.
The development and introduction into healthty practice of diagnostic curative and preventive medicines.
Post-graduate training, and scientific training of higher qualification in the field of Virology, molecular biology and biotechnology through graduate school and higher education.
In 2004 a researcher at VECTOR died after accidentally pricking herself with a needle contaminated with the Ebola virus.
Fifteen years later, on September 17, 2019, a gas explosion occurred at Vector. One worker suffered third-degree burns, and the blast blew out window panes. The lab has highly contagious forms of bird flu and strains of hepatitis.
2019 (Sep) - LAB BLAST Gas explosion tears through Russian bio-weapons lab containing smallpox, Ebola and HIV virus sparking ‘major emergency’
A GAS explosion and ensuing fire has ripped through a Russian "bio-weapons" laboratory where the world's most infectious viruses are stored.
The State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology has said a cylinder exploded in a lab, which is one of two places in the world to stockpile smallpox.
Russian media have reported that the “the situation was quickly upgraded from an ordinary emergency to a major incident”.
Following the blast, one worker was left with third degree burns. Further details are unclear.
The risk to the public from biological contamination has been downplayed.
Russian state media reported the facility’s head “emphasising the incident does not pose any biological or any other threat to the population”.
The fire was caused by the explosion of a gas canister but "no work with biological materials was going on there", a statement from the lab said.
The incident follows numerous blasts in nuclear and conventional weapons bases in the past few months.
On August 8 a deadly explosion at ballistic nuclear missile testing range near Nyonoksa, north-western Russia caused a spike in radiation levels and sparked the evacuation of a nearby village.
Officials claimed that no radiation had been released, although the city administration in Severodvinsk reported a rise in radiation levels – a contradiction that recalled Soviet-era cover-ups of disasters like Chernobyl.
On August 5, huge explosions and mushrooms clouds were witnessed nearby a weapons base in Kamenka, Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk
On July 1 a "blast" aboard a Russian nuclear "spy" submarine killed 14 crew members.
The plant is one of two places in the world, where the smallpox disease is stored.
The other place is at a high-security laboratory which is called the US centre for Disease Control in Atlanta.
A Russian scientist at a former Soviet biological weapons laboratory in Siberia has died after accidentally sticking herself with a needle laced with ebola, the deadly virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment, the lab's parent Russian center announced over the weekend.
Scientists and officials said the accident had raised concerns about safety and secrecy at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector, which in Soviet times specialized in turning deadly viruses into biological weapons. Vector has been a leading recipient of aid in an American program to help former Soviet scientists and labs convert to peaceful research.
Although the accident occurred May 5, Vector did not report it to the World Health Organization until last week. Scientists said that although Vector had isolated the scientist to contain any potential spread of the disease and there was no requirement that accidents involving ebola be reported, the delay meant that scientists at the health agency could not provide prompt advice on treatment that might have saved her life.
The first public mention of the accident was over the weekend on Pro-Med, the informal Internet reporting and discussion network of doctors and other health care professionals, which posted the Vector account of the laboratory accident on its Web site (www.promedmail.org)
American experts said the accident had not occurred in a lab now receiving United States government or private money for research.
While officials at Vector said the scientist, Antonina Presnyakova, was working on an ebola vaccine, they have declined to identify who was financing the research or discuss its specific nature.
Terry Fredeking, the president and founder of Antibody Systems, a Texas-based company, said that while his company had spent more than $150,000 in the last five years on joint research on ebola at Vector, the accident did not involve research he was financing. ''It's sad and somewhat frightening,'' said Mr. Fredeking, ''that Vector didn't inform the W.H.O. or even its own lab directors that the accident had occurred in time for us to offer help.''
Ronald Atlas, a biodefense expert at a center at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, said that while it was important to work on vaccines to protect against deadly viruses, the accident showed the danger. ''It shows we must be careful about what we are doing, as well as where and with whom we are doing it,'' said Dr. Atlas, in an interview here at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting.
An American scientist was involved in a similar accident with ebola at the Army's leading biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Md., several months ago. But she did not contract the disease. The lab disclosed the accident within 48 hours, officials said.
Vector is also one of two repositories of the deadly smallpox virus -- the other is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States has spent millions of dollars to help convert such places to peaceful research, including an estimated $10 million at Vector.
Critics of the program have opposed expanding such aid because it is hard to verify whether former Soviet scientists are using the American-supported research for peaceful purposes. But the program's defenders say it keeps scientists employed on peaceful projects and prevents them from working for anti-American states or terrorists seeking biological weapons.