Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL)?
Research on infectious diseases requires a very specialized facility. The facility must be built to complex specifications for design, facilities, operations, maintenance, and operating procedures that ensure a high level of containment, or “biocontainment” since researchers are working with biological materials. Laboratories that are designed for research on infectious diseases are classified into four categories, BSL-1 through BSL-4. While much of the infectious diseases research is done in laboratories with BSL-1 and -2 capabilities, a BSL-3 laboratory is required to provide a safe environment for work with agents associated with serious human disease, especially those that can cause illness by spreading through the air. A BSL-3 laboratory is designed to protect researchers and has special engineering features in the air and waste handling systems to prevent microorganisms from being disseminated into the environment. Researchers who use the BSL-3 laboratories have thorough training in handling hazardous infectious agents. Access to BSL-3 laboratories is strictly controlled. Regional Biocontainment Laboratories are BSL-3 laboratories built as part of a federally funded program through the National Institutes of Health. RBLs are intended to support BSL-3 research for investigators in academia and industry nationwide.
What is studied at the LIDR?
MU researchers and collaborating scientists study a variety of bacterial pathogens at the LIDR. The goal of these studies is to develop drugs, treatments and vaccines to combat these microorganisms so that they no longer pose a threat to public health. Some of the organisms studied within the LIDR are dangerous if not handled properly. Therefore, the facility is specifically designed and built to meet and exceed stringent federal safety standards to protect researchers and the community from these organisms.
What if I want to work with a pathogen that is not currently used at LIDR?
All research at the LIDR must be approved by the University of Missouri Institutional Biosafety Committee, some of which is also subject to approval by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New research protocols must first be reviewed and approved by the LIDR Biosafety Officer before being submitted to the MU IBC. Approximately 3-6 months may be required to obtain approval for new research initiatives at the LIDR.
Who provides oversight of the LIDR?
The facility is owned and operated by MU via the Office of Research. Local oversight is provided by the MU Responsible Official, Institutional Biosafety Committee and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Federal oversight is provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Office for Biotechnology Affairs and Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare.
What security plans are in place to keep the building safe?
The facility is constructed within a secured perimeter in accordance with federal standards. Users have to go through multiple “check points” before they are able to enter the building. There is a secure perimeter and structure, assigned security authorized and trained staff, installation of sophisticated security access and state-of-the-art audit systems that are the cornerstones of the plan to keep the building safe.
How will you ensure that infectious agents are not released from the facility?
Because of the agents involved, a BSL-3 facility is one of the most cautiously designed buildings in the world. The BSL-3 facility is a self-contained unit. It has its own air supplies, filters, power supplies, decontamination and waste disposal systems. All critical systems are built with redundancy so that back-up units are available and ready for use in the event that primary units fail to operate. For example, the air that comes out of the building is filtered through high efficiency particle filters within a particular laboratory and the air from the entire building undergoes additional high-level filtration to ensure the organism does not escape the building. In effect, the air that leaves the building is cleaner than the air that enters the building.
Is LIDR open to visitors?
Access to LIDR is restricted to those specifically trained and authorized to enter the facility. In special cases, visitors are granted building access under escort.