University of Otago microbiology and immunology department
head Prof Frank Griffin (left), biochemistry head Prof Kurt
Krause (centre) and microbiologist Prof Gregory Cook were
on hand when a new state-of-the-art biocontainment
laboratory was lifted into position this week. Photo
University of Otago scientists have made a big advance in
their efforts to combat tuberculosis and other infectious
diseases by taking delivery of a state-of-the-art containment
The three-room laboratory, which cost nearly $1 million and
weighs about eight tonnes, was lifted into place on top of
the university microbiology and immunology department
building by a large mobile crane this week.
The French-built biocontainment laboratory, classified as PC3
(physical containment third level), is the university's first
PC3 biological laboratory facility - involving the second
highest possible level of micro-organism containment.
It will enable Otago University scientists to pursue advanced
research for the first time involving live Mycobacterium
tuberculosis and other micro-organisms which cause infectious
diseases, at the cellular level.
Tuberculosis kills about two million people a year, mainly in
developing countries, and about 600,000 new cases of the
disease arise every year.
The laboratory is housed in a container and was recently
shipped to New Zealand.
It was funded by Otago University and its purchase resulted
from an initiative by the university's Webster Centre for
Infectious Diseases, strongly supported by microbiology and
immunology department head Prof Frank Griffin and
microbiologist Prof Gregory Cook.
The specialised new facility uses air filters and "negative
pressure" in the main laboratory area to prevent any
microscopic pathogens escaping.
Centre director and Otago biochemistry head Prof Kurt Krause
said it was "quite a relief" to see the laboratory lifted
safely into place on the top of the eight-storey microbiology
He was "very, very excited" that researchers would soon be
able to use the facility to seek new ways of countering the
microorganisms responsible for Tb and other infectious
The new facilities would "greatly enhance" Otago's research
Otago University had a "very big programme" involving Tb
research, "but a lot of the key research had to be contracted
out overseas or to other locations[ in New Zealand]" because
the requisite facilities had not been previously available in
Dunedin, he said.
The laboratory, one of only about four in the country, is due
to be commissioned in December.
It will be used by Profs Krause and Cook, other Otago
scientists, and some researchers from elsewhere in the
Prof Cook said the new equipment was going to "transform our
research", enabling university researchers to seek new
targets for drug attack.