High Containment Laboratory Program

Photo: Dr. Joseph Brewoo

Author: Scott Thomaston, AVP, EHSO

The commissioning of the Health Sciences Research Building Phase 2 (HSRB2) brings a significant increase in Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) and Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL3) capacity to our research community.  This addition of 12 high containment labs significantly adds to our ability to work with infectious biological agents that require additional safety practices.  The Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) is working closely with the School of Medicine High Containment Scientific Director faculty to ensure that this facility is safe and efficient for our research community.  The advisory document Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL 6th edition) published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, serves as a cornerstone for best practices for the safe conduct of work in biomedical and clinical laboratories from a biosafety perspective.  BMBL describes four levels of biological laboratory safety (BSL1- BSL4).  At Emory the vast majority of laboratories are BSL2 with only a few BSL3 labs, however BSL3 labs require much more stringent practices due to the nature of work conducted in these facilities. The essential elements of Biosafety Levels 1–4 describe standard microbiological practices, special practices, safety equipment, and laboratory facilities; these elements apply to activities involving infectious microorganisms, toxins, and laboratory animals. The four levels are organized in ascending order by the degree of protection provided to personnel, the environment, and the community. Emory has no BSL4 laboratories.

All proposals to work with infectious agents or recombinant DNA are evaluated by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) which is a faculty-based committee that functions to closely evaluate research proposals to ensure safe use of these agents. All BSL3/ABSL3 proposals will be evaluated by the IBC and the Research Health and Safety Committee (RHSC) before work commences.  This will include assurance that all workers are trained and have demonstrated competency in working in high containment facilities. This also consists of an Occupational Health component for workers. EHSO additionally works very closely with Campus Services Engineering to ensure that ventilation and direction air flow of these facilities meet all requirements as described by the CDC and NIH including an annual shut down for maintenance and re-certification.

Dr. Joseph Brewoo recently joined EHSO in the capacity of Assistant Director to focus on management of high containment laboratories on the Emory Campus.  Dr. Brewoo left his position at Tufts University as Research Operations Manager at the New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory (NERBL), North Grafton, MA. He was responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of standard operating procedures and processes for work at the A/BSL-3 and ensuring full compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations. He recently led the establishment and operationalization of a research and development (R&D) unit of a Colombian Vaccine Company (VaxThera, LLC) in Madison, Wisconsin serving as a liaison with the parent company and coordinated research collaborations with the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty. We are delighted to have Dr. Brewoo as part of the team to advance this important addition to Emory research.

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