The TNPRC Regional Biosafety Laboratory: A Vital National Resource

E. Scott Kreitlein, BDHP

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In February 2020, the Tulane National Primate Research Center, located in Covington, Louisiana, became one of the first research facilities in the nation to receive authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain specimens of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the 2019 coronavirus disease otherwise known as COVID-19. This highly infectious virus has rapidly become a threat to human health across the globe. All the work associated with the virus conducted at the TNPRC will be performed in the Regional Biosafety Laboratory (RBL). As the largest such facility of its kind in the nation, this highly sophisticated, non-human primate, biomedical research facility was designed and constructed to exceed the strictest requirements of Biosafety Level Three planning and design guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC. These guidelines are found in the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories manual known as the BMBL. The facility has and will play a vitally important role in the discovery and validation of vaccines and therapeutics developed to support the public health programs of the country, including research and investigations on the coronavirus.

This presentation will focus on the programmatic components of the RBL, and how these elements work together to assist researchers, veterinarians, and husbandry staff to complete the critically important tasks they necessarily need to execute. Completing these tasks are done so under extremely harsh and strenuous working conditions. Among the programmatic elements that will be discussed are an aerobiology transmission exposure suite, telemetry monitoring of animal physiology, surgical functions under BSL-3 conditions, pathology, cage processing and sterilization, tissue digestion, BSL-3 research laboratory functions and sustainability/energy saving applications. Planning concepts, layouts, images and details will be shared with attendees by the lead laboratory planner for the facility, who was intrinsically involved in the realization of this extremely important national resource from the generation of the grant that partially funded the facility to its inception. Participants will learn about the nuances of designing, constructing and operating a facility of this complex nature, and in so doing obtain a deeper understanding and appreciation for their role in the research and discovery of solutions that prevent the costly impact that emerging infectious diseases have on humanity. Special attention will be given to conveying the energy savings and sustainable design concepts incorporated.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the key concepts and principles associated with ABSL-3 Biocontainment as detailed in the latest edition of the BMBL and how these concepts impact the standard operating proceedures of a highly advanced research facility;
  • Learn about varied and unique design elements of the nation's largest non-human primate Regional Biocontainment Laboratory;
  • Understand ways to incorporate sustainability concepts and energy conservation measures into a highly sophisticated animal research facility; and
  • Gain an appreciation for the invaluable research conducted in one of our countries premier laboratories and how they work to develop vaccines, like those that counteract the effects of the highly contagious coronavirus.


Scott has over 28 years of experience in the architectural design community, planning some of the most complex science-related projects in the industry. Having worked exclusively in the S&T field, Scott has utilized his extensive experience and skills in designing a variety of different research-based facilities across globe. Scott is the current President of the Arizona Chapter of I2SL.


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