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Safety, Health, Environment, and Risk Management

Biological Safety Program

The Biological Safety Program is responsible for providing support to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston students and personnel concerning the recognition, evaluation, and control of chemical, biological, and physical hazards. Our goal is to provide the safest work environment for all UTHealth employees and the surrounding health science center community, as well as minimizing risk to the environment and property.

The Biological Safety Program is located at CYF in room: CYF G102. They may be reached by phone at: (713) 500-8170 or fax at: (713) 500-8111

Announcement of Second Annual National Biosafety Stewardship Month

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has declared October 2015 to be National Biosafety Stewardship Month (NBSM).  As many will remember from last year, the purpose of National Biosafety Stewardship Month is to reinforce attention towards current biosafety practices, policies, and procedures.  Although participation is voluntary, the NIH once again encourages all institutions to participate in this year’s NBSM. 

The goals of NBSM and more information can be found in the NIH Office of Science Policy’s frequently asked question document:  FAQs on NBSM

In support of NBSM, Environmental Health and Safety is requesting that UTHealth laboratories maintain up-to-date inventories of their biological agents. There is no required format for conducting your inventory, but it is essential that you know what biological agents are stored within your freezers and refrigerators.  Click here for some recommended survey forms that can be used to assist with your inventory.  Also, EHS can assist with the disposal of any unwanted agents or materials – please call the EHS Waste Line at 713-500-5837 to arrange for pickup and disposal.

The safe conduct of the research is of paramount importance to UTHealth and the NIH.  By refocusing efforts on the biosafety aspects of our projects, we can help ensure that vitally important research is conducted safely and in a transparent manner.

Department of Health and Human Services Image

Notice: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Releases “United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern”

Release Date: September 24, 2014
Effective Date: September 24, 2015

Despite its value and benefits, certain types of research conducted for legitimate purposes can
be utilized for both benevolent and harmful purposes. Such research is called “dual use
research.” Dual use research of concern is a subset of dual use research defined as: “life
sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to
provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to
pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety,
agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security.”
The United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use
Research of Concern articulates the practices and procedures required to ensure that dual use
research of concern is identified at the institutional level and risk mitigation measures are
implemented as necessary.

The following agents and categories of experiments are specifically listed in the new policy as follows:

Agents and toxins:

a) Avian influenza virus (highly pathogenic)
b) Bacillus anthracis
c) Botulinum neurotoxin
d) Burkholderia mallei
e) Burkholderia pseudomallei
f) Ebola virus
g) Foot-and-mouth disease virus
h) Francisella tularensis
i) Marburg virus
j) Reconstructed 1918 Influenza virus
k) Rinderpest virus
l) Toxin-producing strains of Clostridium botulinum
m) Variola major virus
n) Variola minor virus
o) Yersinia pestis

Categories of experiments:

a) Enhances the harmful consequences of the agent or toxin
b) Disrupts immunity or the effectiveness of an immunization against the agent or toxin
without clinical and/or agricultural justification
c) Confers to the agent or toxin resistance to clinically and/or agriculturally useful
prophylactic or therapeutic interventions against that agent or toxin or facilitates
their ability to evade detection methodologies
d) Increases the stability, transmissibility, or the ability to disseminate the agent or
e) Alters the host range or tropism of the agent or toxin
f) Enhances the susceptibility of a host population to the agent or toxin
g) Generates or reconstitutes an eradicated or extinct agent or toxin listed in 6.2.1,

If you work with any of these agents or toxins and your research involves any of the above listed categories of experiments, please contact Environmental Health and Safety immediately at 713-500-8100.

UTHealth Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) -(word doc)

We encourage all researchers to learn more about dual use research and the new policy at:

Institutional Biosafety Committee (Biological Agents, Recombinant or Synthetic DNA Molecules)

IBC Protocol Submission

Online Protocol Submission Interface
User's Manual for Online Protocol Submission interface (PDF)
PI Guide for Modifications to the Institutional Biosafety Committee Protocol (PDF)

rDNA Guidance

NIH Guidelines for PI’s
Principal Investigator Responsibilities for the Use and Classification of rDNA Research
NIH/OBA rDNA Guidelines

IBC Committee Information

Committee Membership
Committee Guidelines
Policy and Procedures (PDF)

Institutional Biosafety Committee meets on the first Thursday of every month.  Meetings are open to the public, but location and times may vary.  Please contact Environmental Health & Safety (713-500-8100) for further information.

Biological Safety Manual, and Guidance Documents

UTHealth Institutional Biological Safety Manual (pdf)
UTHealth Biological Safety Cabinets Guidance Document
UTHealth Indoor Air Quality - Mold

Laboratory Safety Audits
Biological Agent Inventory Agent Form
Biological Agent Inventory Short Form

Biological Safety Training

Initial Laboratory and Bloodborne Pathogens Training* required by UT System
Annual Laboratory and Bloodborne Pathogens Training *required annually
Infectious Substance Shipping Training -*required every two years
Institutional Biosafety Committees Annual Training 2015

Select Agents and Toxins Reference Pages

CDC Select Agents Program Page (CDC site)
Select Agent List
Regulations: Final Rule and Information for Transferring or Receiving (pdf)
Dual Use Research
CDC Bioterrorism Web Page

Useful Biological Safety Links

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)

Southern Biosafety Association -ABSA Affiliate

National & International
American Biological Safety Association (ABSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Health Canada's Biological MSDS
World Health Organization

Biological Safety Staff

Brett Haltiwanger, Ph.D., CBSP, Safety Manager
(713) 500-8162
BS:, Sweet Briar College (Biology)
PhD:, Thomas Jefferson University (Microbiology and Molecular Virology) 

Kristin King, Safety Specialist
B.S., University of Texas at Austin (Microbiology)

Shalaka Kotkar, Ph.D., MPH, Safety Specialist
(713) 500-8166
PhD: Purdue University (Cellular and Molecular Microbiology)
MPH: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (Environmental and Occupational Health Science)

Chad Austin, Ph.D., Safety Specialist
(713) 500-8161
B.S. Seattle Pacific University (Biochemistry)
Ph.D. University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus (Microbiology)

Christopher Singh, Ph.D., Safety Specialist
(713) 500-5311
B.A. Boston University (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
M.S. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (Biomedical Sciences)
Ph.D. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (Molecular Pathology)