Lab at Panjab University raises eyebrows

A vaccine facility, allege employees; authorities refute

Lab at Panjab University raises eyebrows

The laboratory at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Computer Centre in Panjab University. Tribune photo

Deepankar Sharda
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 9

A science laboratory set up at the Sophisticated Analytical Instrumentation Facility (SAIF)/ CIL Building at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Computer Centre in Panjab University (PU) has raised eyebrows.

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The PU had issued an advertisement on March 5 for a post regarding a research project titled “Design and development of new vaccine adjuvants”, which had sparked the controversy.

The decision has not gone well with the staff as they believe that it’s a virology/vaccine laboratory and may put their lives at risk. They allege the laboratory was set up to conduct vaccine trials under a tie-up with an Australian biotechnology company.

However, the authorities maintained that it’s a normal science laboratory.

In a representation, the staff of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Computer Centre, DCSA, SAIF and CIL stated: “A virology/ vaccine laboratory is set up on the first floor of CIL/Computer Department building, which is contradicting to the bio-safety norms. As per the WHO guidelines, the labs involved in the research of viruses, bacterium and other pathogens must be established in a separate building or a building having sufficient space for isolation of labs from other labs, classrooms and staff in the building.”

They further submitted: “If the lab is allowed to operate from the present site, it will pose threat to hundreds of staff members and students. We fear that this type of unsafe setup may lead to repeat of Wuhan (China) tragedy in which the spread of Covid-19 claimed lakhs of lives throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, Sukhwinder Singh, Director of the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Computer Centre, denied having such lab in the arena. RK Singla, Dean University Instructions (DUI), PU, said: “It’s a normal lab and the matter has been already resolved. It’s not vaccine testing lab. The complainants and other staff members were called today and they were informed about it,” said Singla.

“The university should clear its stand in this matter and the doubts of the staff members should be resolved. A representation has also submitted by us,” said Deepak Kaushik, president, Panjab University Staff (non-teaching) Association.

Definitely a vaccine laboratory: Staff

Some staff members, requesting anonymity, alleged that the lab has been set up by the Department of Chemistry for carrying vaccine trials of TLR7. It’s a collaboration of Vaxine Pty. Ltd (College of Medicine University and Public Health), Flinders University, Adelaide (Australia), and the National Interdisciplinary Centre of Vaccine, Immunotherapeutics and Antimicrobials, PU. “We have no objections in setting up of any kind of lab but the authorities should confirm that it follows all bio-safety norms. The waste of the lab is being thrown in open and the assistants are coming in contact with others without proper sanitisation. There are many more flaws and we have informed the authorities about it,” said one of the complainants.

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