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Minding the Details in BSL-3 and Other Medical Research Labs

Coronavirus has disrupted and altered our public life quickly and, perhaps, irrevocably. Scientists have studied the coronavirus safely for years in BSL-3 (“biosafety level 3“) labs at undisclosed locations around the world. And while our interest in the progress of their work may be at its apex, the scientists doing the work are carrying on using the same methodical rigor that have long been the hallmark of the BSL-3 designation.

In the U.S., the CDC designates four levels of labs. BSL-3 labs specialize in microbes that can become aerosolized and cause major illness, injury, or death. This includes coronavirus.novel coronavirus/COVID-19

Because of the seriousness of their handled materials, BSL-3 labs are “slow labs“—places where workers plan their workflows carefully in advance. They work methodically, from checklists, one step at a time. Essential PPE and biological safety cabinets enclose and contain contaminated surfaces of all kinds within the lab. Staff are medically monitored. Safety processes carefully defined.

Slow and Easy Wins the Race in BSL-3 Labs 

Researchers build slowness into the BSL-3 workflow. As Vanderbilt’s Dr. Mark Denison explained in a recent episode of Radio Lab, “No one can tell you to speed up when you’re in the BSL-3.”

The BSL-3 lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center took more than two years to design and build to safety specifications. As Dr. Denison sees it:

“This [work on the novel coronavirus] is too urgent to go fast. … Work in BSL-3 is hyper methodical. You do one thing at a time. … You do everything with an intentionality that is sort of ‘anti’ how we’re trained to move forward fast and do lots of things in a day.… Everything is written down, you follow the guidelines, you follow them one step at a time.… You can’t answer a phone, you can’t respond to an email. The world sort of comes to a stop while you’re working in there.”

Researchers hope to bring intentionality and mindfulness to any scientific inquiry. But it is even more important when they’re working with substances that could cause significant injury, illness, or even death when not safely handled.

These “clean-room” setups are increasingly common beyond pathogen containment. We’ve worked with several organizations on clean room and BSL projects. We appreciate their methodical approach to work—and match it with a methodical approach to ours. Our custom pass-through autoclaves provide sterile routes into and out of these sealed laboratory environments, reducing the risk of compromised laboratory standards, contamination, or infection—in BSL-3 labs and beyond. 

BioMaster for Safer Surfaces

High-stakes situations aren’t the only time we’re interested in preventing cross-contamination.  Every Priorclave autoclave—not just those destined for sensitive BSL-3 environments—come with Biomaster Protected® Antimicrobial coating as standard. This anti-bacterial and anti-fungal coating also has virucidal qualities, and is incorporated into the body of our machines to stay with them for the life of the product, offering passive protection from cross contamination over the long haul.