UF Biosafety Information Regarding COVID-19 Research Projects

Dear UF Researcher:

With the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) there is an immense need for research on diagnostics, treatment, epidemiology, and basic biology.  Numerous agencies, both government and private, have begun soliciting research proposals for work related to COVID-19.  Being a leading research institution, the University of Florida should be at the forefront of this research.  We anticipate that many researchers will begin to plan experiments related to this field. 

We are writing to inform the research community of important biosafety rules and regulations pertaining to work with SARS-CoV-2.  Until additional data are available, a specific risk group determination is not being made for SARS-CoV-2 by the NIH. The CDC is providing Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with COVID-19.  Per the CDC Guidelines:

“Virus isolation in cell culture and initial characterization of viral agents recovered in cultures of SARS-CoV-2 specimens are NOT recommended at this time, except in a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory.

Routine diagnostic testing of specimens can be handled in a BSL-2 laboratory using Standard Precautions. For procedures with a high likelihood to generate aerosols or droplets, use either a certified Class II Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) or additional precautions to provide a barrier between the specimen and personnel.”

In keeping with CDC guidance, the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and the Biosafety Office are requiring that all work with viable SARS-CoV-2 virus be performed at BSL-3.  Per UF policy, all BSL-3 work requires IBC approval before work can begin.  Additionally, there are numerous training requirements, along with background checks for certain facilities, that must be met before BSL‑3 work can begin.  Please contact the Biosafety Office for guidance if you are proposing work with SARS-CoV-2 that requires a BSL-3 facility. 

All other work involving SARS-CoV-2, including clinical specimens and use of recombinant/synthetic nucleic acids, must be registered using the GatorTRACS Biohazard Project Registration module.  Projects involving the use of recombinant/synthetic nucleic acids from SARS-CoV-2 will also require IBC approval.  Project approvals will detail the required containment practices for the proposed work.

Below are useful links to relevant sites:

Paul A. Gulig, Ph.D. | Chair, Institutional Biosafety Committee | UF College of Medicine

(352) 294-5544 | gulig@ufl.edu