Posted: 29.07.2022 11:12:00

Domestic vaccine comes first

The Centre for Virology of the Academy of Sciences will develop domestic vaccines

The Belarusian product against COVID-19 is ready, now a site for pilot production is being built. But it’s not just about fighting the pandemic, epidemiologists say. The main thing is to learn how to create platforms for the release of vaccines. With such a foundation, Belarus will be able to withstand any challenges, and do it without outside help.

“There can be no medicine without biology. COVID-19 scared us, and we had to fast-track vaccine production.” 
Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he heard out a report on the integration of biology and medicine, June 16th, 2022

Last year, the Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Vladimir Gusakov initiated the creation of a centre for organising fundamental research in virology. It is being built at the Institute of Biophysics and Cell Engineering of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Director of the Institute Andrei Goncharov told what specialists plan to do, “The main attention is being given to diagnostic methods and the creation of test systems in our country.

This is the very first centre at the Academy of Sciences, where we will purposefully engage the whole institution in medical virology, primarily the development of various vaccines. The state allocates large funds for the construction of the Centre for Virology. The premises are already done, communications are laid out, it remains to install the ventilation system. The centre is being erected by specialists directly trained for this, because the work here is significantly different from ordinary objects. Laboratory rooms are isolated from the environment as much as possible, constant air pressure will be maintained there to prevent microbes. Complete wastewater treatment is provided.”
“All microorganisms will be neutralised, and they will not be able to cause any disease. We purchase the highest quality equipment that will allow us to get good results and provide reliable protection: glove boxes for safe work with microorganisms, CO₂ incubators, microscopes, ultracentrifuges, cryostorages for organic living materials and much more,” specifies Andrei Goncharov.
After the creation of the platform, vaccines against new infections will be obtained as soon as possible, the Director of the Institute is sure, “We will develop preventive drugs from the vaccination calendar and gradually replace imports. This is an important aspect of national biosecurity, which is essential in today’s turbulent world.”
The Centre for Virology is considering producing vaccines against infections endemic to Asia, Africa and South America. For example, against malaria, yellow fever — as an export option. Here they will deal with the elimination of the threats of influenza, the carriers of which are animals, birds, including migratory ones. We should always be at the ready for new viruses, says the scientist, “With the onset of global warming, another dangerous factor has emerged. This is the spread of animals that did not previously live on our territory, with which pathogens of serious diseases could be brought. A classic example is filoviruses that came to humans from bats. The most famous are Marburg and Ebola, but nothing prevents the rest from overcoming the interspecies barrier and adapting to humans. If earlier filoviruses were circulated among bats only in Africa, now they are also found in certain European countries. This cannot but be a source of some alarm.”

Therefore, the monitoring of the animal world for dangerous infections, co-operation with the veterinary service, the Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources, as well as interaction with other departments of the National Academy of Sciences will be within eyesight of the newly-created Centre for Virology. Andrei Goncharov set another important task for the centre — to develop and produce technical tools for virus identification.
The main thing for the country is to be ready to protect itself from infections. 
However, they can arise not only in a natural way: bioterrorism cannot be dismissed out of hand today — many people in the world know how to grow a pathogen in the era of the development of biotechnology. In addition, there is a possibility of virus leakage from laboratories. Therefore, when creating a domestic centre, security issues will be given maximum attention.

By Yelena Basikirskaya
Photos by Vitaly Pivovarchik