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Improving Global Laboratory Diagnostic Capacity: Modular, End-user-assembled Biosafety Cabinets for Sustainable Biocontainment

Description:

Fast-Track proposals will not be accepted. Number of anticipated awards: 1 -2 Budget (total costs):
Phase I: up to $150,000 for up to 6 months
PROPOSALS THAT EXCEED THE BUDGET OR PROJECT DURATION LISTED ABOVE MAY NOT BE FUNDED.
Background
A protective space with negative pressure and air flow is necessary for safe manipulation of human specimens that may contain of communicable pathogens. Use of biosafety cabinets (BSCs) with HEPA filtration is the best method to protect both laboratory workers from exposure and potential infection and the surrounding environment from contamination. Biosafety cabinets are readily accessible in the global north, but are expensive, and require continuous maintenance to ensure their effective removal of pathogens from lab spaces. In many countries where dangerous pathogens are endemic, there is limited infrastructure and resources to purchase such equipment. Further, laboratories in resource-poor countries have limited space and may lack technical expertise to maintain BSCs. Annual inspection of filters as well as airflow speed and pressure is required for certification and safe use of BSCs.

Project Goals
To offer sustainable biocontainment to global laboratories by developing an inexpensive cabinet with modular components that are easy to assemble, dissemble and transport.
Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables
To engineer the BSC cabinet modules so that all motor parts and filters are easily accessible and can be replaced or repaired by laymen as needed. Modular BSC cabinets will be designed with robust, multi-membrane filter components that are durable and easy to maintain.
For Successful Phase I Awardees ONLY (Expected Phase II Deliverables)
During Phase II of this project, the modular BSCs will be piloted in three or more laboratories of varying infrastructure, funding and capabilities (local/rural, state/exurban, national/urban) as well as in a field situation.
Ease of assembly and use: Instructional materials and necessary tools will be provided to pilot labs; hands-on training will be provided if needed. BSCs will be used once assembled, then dismantled, moved and reassembled. Ideally, assembly training required will be nominal, and assembly/disassembly time will be less than one hour.
Quality testing (Field): Test materials (small particulates, glow dust) will be used to ensure quality of filtration in polluted and unhygienic locations. Air flow pressure will be measured and compared before and after contamination with particulates.
Repair and maintenance: Instructions and tools required for repair (motor, filter change, etc.) will be provided to lab designees. Adjustments to protocols and modules will evolve as needed to simplify field maintenance.
Impact
The availability of a portable BSC that can be maintained with minimal experience and expense will enable more rapid detection of infections at their source, thereby preventing larger clusters of disease and epidemics. The modular BSC will be cost-saving in that specimens can be tested at source laboratories without the need for transport to city reference labs. Further, the modular BSC will reduce time to diagnosis, as specimens can be tested closer to the point of care, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality. Finally, the modular BSC will protect laboratory staff and environments, reducing unnecessary illness and increasing biosafety and biosecurity practices.
Commercialization Potential
There is a need for this product, since 1) International labs with some infrastructure and funding require a product like this in order to meet minimal safety and quality standards, and 2) International labs with little infrastructure and funding cannot safely handle human specimens from potentially infected persons without this product.

 

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