Biocontainment Laboratory

The Administration Section supports the various specialist sections of Spiez Laboratory with the following services:

Switzerland has its own high containment laboratory complex, the biosafety laboratory, where pathogenic micro-organisms in the highest risk groups (RG 3 and 4) can be handled safely. The safety and security of the facility has top priority:

  • The public and the environment must be protected from any accidental release of microorganisms.
  • Laboratory staff must be able to protect themselves against infections.

To ensure this, potential risks are analysed in detail. These studies provide the basis for structural planning and defining the respective procedures and practises or the choice of safety equipment.

Tasks

(Bio)safety tasks include:

  • Guaranteeing biological safety
  • Guaranteeing technical safety
  • Training

Biosafety

According to the WHO, the term biosafety covers two aspects: biosafety and biosecurity. The WHO defines biosafety as the ‘containment principles, technologies and procedures that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to pathogens and toxins, or their accidental release’. Biosecurity, on the other hand, refers to ‘institutional and personal security measures aimed at preventing the loss, theft, misuse, diversion or intentional release of valuable biological material’. Generally, a distinction is made between primary and secondary barriers. Primary barriers refer chiefly to the operational features specific to the laboratory as well as personal protective equipment. The standard operating procedures of the laboratory set out how biological material should be handled and which appliances may be used. In this regard, it is of central importance that laboratory personnel receive the appropriate training and that working methods are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Secondary barriers cover technical installations as well as the actual construction of the laboratory itself.

Technical safety

The technical installations and their maintenance are an integral part of containment laboratory safety. The biosafety laboratory is designed in such a way that air pressure drops the closer one gets to the critical area/potential source of danger. This guarantees an inward flow of air in the laboratory at all times, which ensures human and environmental safety even if a serious accident occurs. To ensure the smooth and safe running of the containment laboratory at all times, all technical installations such as fresh and exhaust air, water supply and drainage, and electrical power are redundant. The entire facility is monitored by a comprehensive control system, which also coordinates room parameters and media systems. Everything leaving the biosafety laboratory (from exhaust air and waste water to sampling material) is decontaminated or inactivated beforehand.

Training

Die Biosicherheitsausbildung am Biocontainment Laboratory richtet sich an drei Zielgruppen:

  • Training of own staff to ensure safety in the biosafety laboratory at all times;
  • Training of members of the Swiss Armed Forces to enable them to perform their duties in this specialist field without endangering themselves or others;
  • Training of national and international specialists at the highest safety level

Spiez Laboratory plans to set up an international centre of expertise for training at the highest biosafety levels. Thanks to the biosafety laboratory, Spiez Laboratory is able to conduct courses where participants can train at the highest biosafety level under real, yet risk-free, conditions. A special ‘mock laboratory’ is available for practise purposes where only harmless pathogens are handled.

Head:

Dr. Benjamin Weber

Staff:

Stefan Breitenbaumer
Beat Lörtscher
Dr. Daniel Zysset


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