New lab studying dangerous viruses opens near Prague

Biocev science centre in Vestec

A new laboratory enabling safe work with highly infectious viruses and bacteria opened this week at the Biocev science centre in Vestec near Prague. The state-of-the-art facility will enable scientists to study hepatitis B, HIV, Covid and other dangerous viruses.

The Biotechnology and Biomedical Centre research centre of the Academy of Sciences and Charles University, opened in Vestec, a small village on the western outskirts of Prague, already in 2014.


However, over the past year it has now been upgraded to a high-security facility, known as BSL3, which enables scientists to work with dangerous viruses.

Tomáš Košt'ák, a manager for JRTech, the company that carried out the year-long reconstruction, says the laboratory must comply with very specific conditions concerning heating, ventilation and air-conditioning:

“The lab’s air ventilation system has to be self-contained. All the exhaust air from the lab is filtered through HEPA filters. There is no way the viruses could escape from the main room, because they are sealed in a vacuum.”

The facility also includes a special drainage system, explains Mr. Košťák:

“The drainage of contaminated water goes through a separate sewer of welded plastic pipe. All contaminated water is brought to the decontamination unit which is one floor below the lab, where it is thermally decontaminated.”


The renovation of the state-of-the-art facility cost almost CZK 40 million, with an additional 25 million spent on top-grade equipment. It was funded by the National Institute of Virology and Bacteriology, using European subsidies. Zdeněk Hostomský is the institute’s principal investigator:

“It is fantastic that we get to do this work in one facility and that we can do this really highly skilled, although dangerous research of pathogens in such great conditions”

The new facility in Vestec is not the only Biosafety Level 3 Lab in the country. What makes it unique is that it is directly connected to another facility studying viruses in mice, that is, in living organisms.

Among the first scientists to use the brand new BIOCEV lab is Markéta Pimková Polidarová from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology, who focuses on the research of hepatitis B.

Photo: České centrum pro fenogenomiku,  CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ DEED

“What we are looking at is the life cycle of the virus, how it can affect the immune system. We can also test potential drugs because there is still no universal treatment for hepatitis B available.”

Another researcher to use the new facility in Vestec is Magdalena Jančařová from the Faculty of Life Sciences, who will be studying the virus that spreads the so-called Rift Valley fever, which threatens to spread from Africa to Europe.

“Our project is concerned with the Rift Valley fever and its transmission potential, and we are identifying the transmitters. This is the only way we can get this project done. Without this facility, it wouldn't be possible, because we couldn’t comply with all the safety rules.”