On February 1, a molecular microbiology laboratory was inaugurated on the Lágymányos campus of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE). The facility was built with an investment of almost HUF 1 billion and will enable the detection of infections caused by various pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, and the analysis of natural and vaccine-induced immune responses. The primary objective of the laboratory center is to support defence against the coronavirus epidemic, but it also serves research purposes and provides services to industrial partners. The laboratory was established by the ELTE Center for Higher Education and Industrial Cooperation in Biotechnology (FIEK) within the framework of an NKFIH project, and in cooperation with the ELKH Research Center for Natural Sciences (TTK), SERVIER Gyógyászati Vegytani Kutatóintézet Zrt. and CRU Hungary Egészségügyi és Szolgáltató Kft.
Launched in 2017 with support from the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Fund (NKFIA), the original aim of the project was to establish an accredited molecular biomarker laboratory to perform genetic and cell biology tests for the scientific community, the pharmaceutical industry and the national healthcare system. However, in response to the pandemic that emerged in late 2019, the consortium's participants have contributed to the original development concept and begun to work on making the new facility fit to support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
László Borhy, Rector of ELTE and a member of the ELKH Governing Board, emphasized at the inauguration ceremony that the laboratory can contribute to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and will be able to meet the needs of biotechnological research and the protection of the health of the ELTE community at a world-class level even after the pandemic has ended.
As a result of the joint work, the 440-square-meter laboratory, commissioned in early February, will allow researchers to test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in biological samples using qPCR and LAMP technologies. In addition, ELISA tests and neutralization activity analysis of other serum antibodies can be used to detect SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies and to study the cellular immune response. The laboratory will provide the basis for continuous and safe health monitoring for ELTE's faculty, students and external stakeholders, as well as for the completion of molecular biomarker research and related services in accordance with the original purpose.