The official National Training Center designation will be conferred during a May 9 opening event for the biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) training lab, which is the first of its kind in the country to be specifically designed and built solely for educational purposes. UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. Howard Federoff and NIH Division of Occupational Health and Safety Director Deborah Wilson will be among distinguished speakers, and guided tours will be provided.
“The National Training Center designation from NIH further establishes UCI as a leader in an area of research that is critically important for the public’s health,” Federoff said. “As a world-class research university, it’s in our DNA to continuously explore and to improve training.”
With this designation, UCI can deliver NIH-sanctioned courses for biocontainment facilities and operations personnel in a functional yet safe environment.
“Our center leaders bring several decades of their own experience in infectious disease research labs to the program, giving them an informed perspective on what world-class training should look like,” said Dr. Alpesh Amin, The Thomas & Mary Cesario Chair of the Department of Medicine, which oversees the program.
“Already, more than 1,000 people have completed the nationally recognized UCI program,” he said, “carrying critical safety practices back to labs in federal and state governments, the military, public health agencies and more than 25 universities from the U.S. and abroad.”
Built in 2015, the state-of-the-art 1,600-square-foot UCI laboratory allows classroom and practical training in a real-life setting, but without the risks from hazardous materials and without the inconvenience of having to shut down and decontaminate fully operational laboratories. In addition, schooling on how to identify and diagnose mechanical and engineering failures can be simulated without risking damage to the established operational parameters of real BSL-3 laboratories.
Infectious diseases – such as Ebola virus, West Nile virus, Hanta virus, tuberculosis, virulent influenza strains and, currently, Zika virus – have become increasingly prevalent over the past few years and represent a growing threat to public health. Research and development work involving many of these emerging pathogens requires special laboratory facilities, which are termed high-containment or biosafety level 3.
BSL-3 laboratories’ sophisticated engineering, administrative controls and rigorous training programs ensure the safety of lab workers, support staff, first responders and the general public. Nationally, it is estimated that there are more than 2,500 BSL-3 laboratories in the academic, public health and corporate settings.
“Our partnership with Dr. Wilson and her program has been a very productive collaboration for over eight years,” said Gary Landucci, director of the BSL-3 training and development program at UCI. “The National Training Center designation from NIH is another milestone for us, and we look forward to the ongoing mutual opportunities that this partnership provides.”
Started in 2006 and with nine years of continuous grant support from the UCI-based Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence, the Integrated Training Program for High Containment BSL-3 Laboratories has developed and delivered courses for all applicable personnel groups.
It was selected in 2015 to provide BSL-3 training to the Centers for Disease Control’s Select Agent Program inspectors. It’s also the official biocontainment training lab for the University of California system and has been honored as a UC Center of Excellence.
When not being used for BSL-3 training, the facility will provide general laboratory safety education for student and staff.
Previously, facilities at Kansas State University and Kent State University received NIH National Training Center designation.
About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
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