Viruses are classified into Risk Groups 1 to 4 according to their transmissibility and lethality. Higher Risk Group viruses would require facilities equipped with more stringent safety features to study and develop solutions to counter them. Current facilities within DSO National Laboratories can safely handle Risk Group 3 viruses like SARS and COVID-19. To better prepare Singapore against future biological threats, DSO will be upgrading its facilities to the highest biosafety level – Level 4 – to provide Singapore with our own capability to safely handle, assess and develop countermeasures against more severe forms of viruses.
Upgraded Biosafety Laboratory
The upgraded biosafety laboratory will allow the safe handling of higher-risk pathogens. The laboratory will be used to isolate and culture new emerging infectious disease pathogens and known high-risk pathogens. These cultures can be immediately used for the development and testing of diagnostics as well as developing countermeasures such as antibody therapeutics.
The biosafety laboratory is planned to be situated in the DSO facility at Marina Hill and is expected to be operational by end-2025.
The upgraded biosafety laboratory will comply with the Ministry of Health's National Biosafety Standards for Maximum Containment Facilities established in May 2019, covering the design principles, management and operating policies, good practices and performance testing.
A qualified consultant with relevant experience will also be engaged to assist in the design of the laboratory to ensure adherence to international standards and guidelines from the World Health Organisation and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The biosafety measures in the enclosed facility include:
Some examples of similar biosafety laboratories around the world include the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia; the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany; and the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, US.