IAEA opens new Laboratory Facility to help tackle health, food and climate change challenges

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Photo Iaea

VIENNA, 8 giugno – The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, opened a state of the art laboratory building named after his predecessor Yukiya Amano. The new facility will increase the IAEA’s capacity to assist countries to fight and prevent transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 and to tackle challenges related to climate change and food safety.
The new building will house three of the five laboratories run jointly by the IAEA and the FAO: the Animal Production and Health Laboratory, the Food and Environmental Protection Laboratory and the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory. They will have twice the space in the new facility than they currently have at Seibersdorf. The purpose-built infrastructure will house cutting-edge equipment, including mass spectrometers and next generation gene sequencing platforms, and enhance the IAEA’s capacity for collaborative research and for the provision of training opportunities to scientists in its Member States.
The opening of the facility was especially relevant in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, said Grossi. ”The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the threat that zoonotic diseases pose to human health and well-being. It has also underscored the importance of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in helping our Member States”.
The IAEA is providing emergency assistance to some 120 countries in the use of a nuclear-derived test to rapidly detect the COVID-19 virus.
The three-floor facility offers more than 1,500 sqm in laboratory space. It was designed and constructed with the help of several Austrian firms at a cost of €19.2 million, funded through contributions from several IAEA Member States, individuals, and institutional partners. In total, 42 IAEA Member States contributed over euro 39 million in extrabudgetary funds and in-kind contributions for the renovation of all its nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf.
The modernized laboratories will increase the IAEA’s ability to support countries in addressing zoonotic diseases. These include diseases such as COVID-19, avian influenza, Ebola and Zika. The Animal Production and Health Laboratory at the centre of the IAEA pandemic response also coordinates a network of veterinary laboratories known as VETLAB, which helps countries safeguard the health of livestock that contribute to the livelihood of around 70 per cent of the world’s rural poor. The two other laboratories carry out applied research and training in the use of nuclear techniques to ensure food safety and prevent food fraud, improve soil and water management and increase crop productivity, among others.