IBC Applications for Teaching Laboratories

Course directors must apply for approval from the Institutional Biosafety Committee for all laboratory based teaching courses which involve recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, infectious agents, or biological toxins. IBC teaching applications will be completed in the same manner as non-teaching applications but since students are not added as personnel on the application, special care should be taken to ensure they receive appropriate biosafety training and standard operating procedures for the lab work performed.

Please contact the IBC office at ibc@umn.edu (best since we work remotely) or 612-626-2161 or if you have any questions or need assistance completing your application in eProtocol.

For risk group 1 microorganisms, please know that not all microorganisms require approval for use but this decision is often determined after the IBC risk assessment and review. That is, the biological safety risk assessment is based on a number of factors, including what the activities are and what agents will be used. Because Risk Group (RG) is typically based on human disease, it is possible that a course may be using a RG1 organism that may not pose a risk to humans, but it may produce a risk to the environment (like plants or animals, etc) that should be considered. Thus, the IBC requests that teaching laboratories using RG1 agents submit applications.

To provide the IBC committee with the necessary information related to your teaching application, please follow these guidelines:

Title of the IBC Application

  • Please provide the course designator along with the course title.

Study Objectives

  • Identify the department and college the course will be offered through.
  • Include the student level (undergrad, graduate, other).
  • Provide a brief description of the course and its goals.
  • Use language that is understandable to those with a general knowledge of biology.
  • If using any Risk Group 2 infectious agents in the laboratory course, please provide a brief rationale for working with these agents rather than Risk Group 1 surrogate organisms.

Personnel Information

  • Include the course instructor as the Principal Investigator.
  • A PI Lab Admin Contact can be included but is not required. A lab manager or teaching assistant could be listed as the PI Lab Admin Contact.
  • Include any laboratory staff that will be assisting with the preparation of the laboratory materials/reagents as Additional Staff.
  • Students enrolled in the course do not need to be accounted for as Personnel.

Attachments to Include

  • A course syllabus (required)
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that the students and staff will use (required)
  • Biological Decontamination and Spill Clean-up form (required)
  • Biological Waste Disposal form (required)
  • Vector Maps (only required if working with recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules)

Find Biological Decontamination and Waste forms on the Attachments page.

Use of GM Cells/Organisms/Animals

Biosafety level (BSL)

If your teaching lab activities involve work with Risk Group 2 agents, please know that your work may be designated BSL2 (refers to practices, procedures, and containment), but this does not necessarily mean that you will be required to work in a BSL2 lab.  Functionally, there are few differences between a BSL1 and BSL2 space with the main differences being a biosafety cabinet (BSC) (used for aerosol producing activities) and an eye wash (BMBL pgs. 32-43). The IBC will determine the appropriate biosafety level from a risk assessment of your activities, and help make recommendations to accommodate the lab space where you expect to teach your course.  There is no certification process for a lab space in designating it with a BSL, however, a lab inspection is performed to check the facility specifics and furnishings for compliance to BMBL facility best practices for each BSL.  If during your lab inspection a deficiency is found and a renovation is suggested/required, please contact the IBC admin. The IBC will do its best to help solve biological safety concerns to ensure that your teaching can be performed safely in the space you have without delay.

Standard Operating Procedure Guidelines

The course director should develop biosafety Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that identify the hazards which could be encountered by the students participating in the lab activities, the teaching staff directing the course, or the lab staff who will prepare materials/reagents for the class. The SOPs should specify the practices and procedures that will be taken to minimize or eliminate the risks of exposures to these hazards for both course staff and students participating in the lab. The SOPs should include step-by-step procedures that the students and staff will use when working in the laboratory. It is important to describe the initial IBC related work and any downstream assays that will be performed with the recombinant synthetic nucleic acids, infectious agents, and biological toxins up through the point that these agents are destroyed or decontaminated.

There are a variety of online resources that are helpful references to utilize in developing a biosafety SOP for your teaching lab. Comprehensive biosafety guidelines for work with Risk Group 2 biohazardous agents can be found in the Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM) Biosafety webpage and the CDC/NIH’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) manual. The NIH’s Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules provides guidance for safety practices and containment guidelines for work with r/sNAs in agents, use of animals containing r/sNAs, and for activities in which agents or animals are modified with r/sNAs.

An SOP template provided by HSRM can be used as a template. While this document is not required to be used, it includes important emergency accident response procedures that should be part of your SOPs, syllabus, and communicated to your students.

General Laboratory Safety Guidelines

Experimental manipulations should only be performed by students when a faculty member or teaching assistant is present.

All incidents must be reported to teaching staff immediately (e.g. spills, injuries, exposure to infectious agents). It is the responsibility of the PI to report all incidents. Incidents can be reported by filling out an incident report for the associated IBC application in eProtocol or it can alternatively be reported by filling out an electronic incident report form and emailing it to ibc@umn.edu.

Lab specific training should be provided to the students at the beginning of the course. Students should be instructed on the appropriate decontamination procedures and waste disposal procedures for the experiments that will be performed in the lab. If human material (blood, human cells etc.) will be manipulated by students then bloodborne pathogen training should be provided to students. Students could enroll in the online training course or the material from the online training could be incorporated into an in-person training. 

Laboratory staff and students working in the laboratory should be trained about the potential illnesses/signs and symptoms related to exposure to biohazardous materials used in the laboratory. If agents that are hazardous to immunocompromised or pregnant individuals will be handled, then staff and students should be made aware that they may contact HealthPartners Occupational Health Clinic to assess their risk level. Available immunizations should be offered to students and staff for agents handled or potentially present in the laboratory. To set up an appointment at the Occupational Health Clinic, staff and students may call (952) 883-6999 or visit their Clinical Services website.

A certified Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) is generally required for work with Risk Group 2 biohazardous agents as well as biological toxins handled in powder or solid form as they may potentially produce aerosols. If a BSC is not available, a risk assessment is recommended to be performed by the faculty member in consultation with the Biosafety and Occupational Health Department (BOHD) to determine if alternate containment and personal protective equipment (PPE) may be used in lieu of a BSC. 

The IBC ultimately determines final use and containment requirements before approval. It is possible that teaching lab activities can occur at Biosafety Level (BSL) 2 with RG2 agents without the need of a BSC if those activities are unlikely to produce aerosols. Please remember that BSL describes the combinations of facility design features and safety equipment, facility practices and procedures, and personal protective equipment. Instructors often label a laboratory space with BSL1 and believe that activities approved at BSL2 cannot occur in them. However, the difference in facility feature needs between BSL1 and BSL2 are minor and U of MN lab space often meets BSL2 facility feature best practice (typically requires inspection). Please consult the BMBL and discuss any questions with the IBC.

SOPs must identify the PPE that staff and students will use when performing lab activities subject to IBC oversight. Current BSL1 standards are gloves, lab coats, and protective eyewear when working with materials where splashes or spills may occur. Disposable gowns are affordable alternatives to lab coats that can often be reused by a student. Closed-toe shoes and long pants/skirts are required to protect staff and students from accidental spills.

SOPs provided in the eProtocol application should be lab specific rather than protocols provided from a vendor.  Please do not forget SOPs for the preparation of materials in the lab (e.g. a culture used by the students). The SOPs should provide step-by-step instructions that students or staff would be able to follow to perform each activity subject to IBC oversight.  Steps requiring extra safety precautions (e.g., additional PPE, use of a biosafety cabinet) should be clearly stated.

When working with risk group 1 agents outside of a biosafety cabinet, students and staff should be instructed on the proper PPE to be worn (typically this would involve gloves and a lab coat) and the appropriate methods for decontamination of the work area.

Lab benches should be wiped down with the appropriate disinfectant after each use and students should be instructed to wash their hands prior to leaving the lab.

When working with r/sNAs that involve modification of an agent, it is important to take into consideration the gene transfer method used, the RG of the r/sNA origin and the RG of the agent.  Viral vectors for gene transfer pose greater biosafety risks, for example, lentiviral vectors have the potential to integrate in the genome and become oncogenic. There is also potential for recombination events to occur which could produce a replication-competent virus. Consideration should also be given to the gene that will be studied. It should be considered whether a gene that will be over-expressed or knocked down could have an oncogenic effect. If there is a potential for an oncogenic effect, additional precautions should be taken. This usually involves enhanced PPE such as disposable lab coats and sleeves, double gloves, and N95 respirators.

Please note that chemical use and safety is not under IBC purview and therefore chemical reagents do not need to be accounted for in the IBC application. For further information on chemical safety and procedures please refer to the Department of Environmental Health and Safety’s website.