Biosafety Level 3 Program

The Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Program provides management support and oversight for the University of Minnesota biocontainment facilities, which are designed to safely handle and store human, animal, and plant infectious agents or toxins.

This program also supports the development of projects using Risk Group 3 pathogens for research or clinical diagnosis. 

Biocontainment facilities make possible development of new treatments, preventative vaccines, and diagnostic tests against Risk Group 3 pathogens and epidemiological surveillance for emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. The BSL-3 facilities are expected to stimulate both federal- and corporate-funded research and thus generate new employment opportunities.

Why do we need BSL-3 containment facilities?

Research with many infectious microorganisms requires specialized facilities. Depending upon the types of biological materials and their ability to cause human, animal, or plant disease, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide extensive guidelines for research facility design and procedures required for safe handling of infectious agents or their byproducts. These guidelines range from biosafety levels 1 to 4 (BSL-1 to BSL-4), based on the risks presented by the infectious agent. The containment guidelines help to maintain a secure environment that provides safety for research, researchers, and adjacent communities.

What BSL-3 containment facilities does the University have?

The University of Minnesota has state-of-the-art containment facilities for research and diagnostic work. Special engineering and design features are built into these facilities, including the ability to sustain constant negative pressure, which are required to prevent microorganisms from being accidentally released into the environment. The lab personnel adhere to strict operational guidelines that are designed to maximize safety and security, increase reliability, and improve effectiveness. Access to these laboratories is rigorously controlled. The containment facilities at the University of Minnesota include:

  • BSL-3/ABSL-3 Research Laboratory Suites
  • BSL-3 Microbiology Research Laboratory
  • Plant Pathology Research Facility
  • Large Animal ABSL-3 Facility

What are the objectives of the BSL-3 Program?

The BSL-3 Program  provides programmatic support and oversight for all activities within biocontainment facilities. Each facility is designed to perform specific activities involving Risk Group 3 agents. The BSL-3 Program ensures that a safe, secure, and productive research environment is sustained in these facilities. The main objectives of the BSL3 Program are to:

  1. ensure that biocontainment facilities are built and maintained under the most stringent interpretation of federal guidelines for biocontainment facilities;
  2. develop operating procedures that ensure personal, communal, and environmental safety;
  3. provide education and training on the safe handling of BSL3 agents; and,
  4. monitor biocontainment activities to ensure regulatory compliance.

For principal investigators and researchers, the BSL-3 Program will assist in developing operating procedures specific to the project that ensure research safety and compliance with internal and external regulatory agencies. The program will also maintain facility-specific documents required to obtain permits for handling BSL-3 agents and assist in garnering approvals from internal and external regulatory bodies.

The program is responsible for education and training of all personnel involved in BSL-3 operations and for monitoring compliance within biocontainment facilities. The ultimate goal is to sustain BSL-3 activities within a secure and safe environment that ultimately fosters research on Risk Group 3 pathogens.