• Kyodo

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The governments of both Nagasaki Prefecture and city on Tuesday notified Nagasaki University of their intention to work with the institution to set up a certified laboratory to handle deadly pathogens, despite safety concerns expressed by local residents.

The university said the biosafety level 4 laboratory it plans to set up would operate under the most stringent biosafety standards according to a four-level scale. It is expected to conduct research beginning in fiscal 2020 into pathogens that are easily spread and often deadly, such as the Ebola virus.

The facility would be the first such research lab in the nation. The only working BSL-4 lab in the country — at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Musashimurayama, in western Tokyo — only conducts tests to determine whether someone is infected with a highly contagious pathogen.

Nagasaki University is considering setting up the laboratory on its school of medicine’s campus within the city. The aim is to conduct basic research to develop treatments and new medicines for containing outbreaks of highly contagious and deadly diseases, as well as fostering experts in responding to looming pandemics.

The new facility “is suitable for Nagasaki as a peace city, from the perspective of saving lives of people in the world,” the mayor of the city, Tomihisa Taue, told a news conference, referring to the atomic bombing of the city at the end of World War II.

Nagasaki Prefecture Gov. Hodo Nakamura said it “would make it possible to diagnose and cure infected patients in a swift manner.”

The prefectural and city authorities have sought financial support from the central government and a commitment to ensure safety at the facility to ease the fears of local people.

The central government has decided to promote the research laboratory as a national project and to provide a range of safety measures.

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