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Supporting Cutting Edge Research at UNC

Dr. J. Victor Garcia-Martinez
Dr. J. Victor Garcia-Martinez
Animal models are often used in the biomedical field as a proxy for working with humans. Small animals, such as mice, are widely used as mammalian model systems because of the similarities in genetics and physiology with humans. These model systems also have the advantage of being easily manipulated genetically allowing researchers the ability to interrogate the role of specific genes in a number of biological processes, including host-pathogen interactions with infectious agents like, HIV, cancers and inflammatory diseases.

While researchers have learned much about disease pathogenesis using mouse model systems, there are limitations to using these surrogates to investigate the intricate interactions between humans and infectious diseases. Notably, differences in the immune systems between mice and humans complicate their use for many human pathogens that are species-specific and can only infect human cells. One powerful approach to circumvent this restriction is the development of “humanized” mice in which the mouse immune system is effectively replaced by human cells through implantation or more recently, genetic manipulation. Mice that are reconstituted with human cells offer a unique model for studying infectious disease pathogenesis, transmission, and persistence in vivo and are now widely used in the biomedical field for studying diseases such as HIV.

In ground-breaking research at UNC, Dr. J. Victor Garcia-Martinez and colleagues have been working on expanding the animal model toolkit available to pre-clinical researchers by developing a novel mouse model system which would allow researchers to better understand the function of the immune system and its role in mediating protection against infectious diseases. In support of this cutting-edge research, the Biological Safety Section in the Department of Environment, Health & Safety worked closely with Dr. Garcia-Martinez to assess the biological risks associated with working with macaque primate tissue, and establish standard operating procedures and containment practices for working safely with this potentially biohazardous model thus paving the way to approval of this research by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

Performance measurement is a critical part of the EHS management system. Education, customer service and internal processes are the three most essential components of our work. The chart below indicates the performance in these areas over a five-year period with Level Four representing optimum performance. The adjacent tab shows the specific performance activities and the level of that performance for 2017.

Components, Years and Level Completed
Education Customer Service Internal Processes
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
4 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 2 3 4 3 3 1 3


  • Trained 8637 healthcare workers, facilities services employees, researchers and childcare providers in bloodborne pathogens annual requirement through online and in-class sessions.
  • Trained 1086 researchers in basic principles of conducting research at BSL-2, such as proper technique and waste handling and trained 191 researchers in enhanced BSL-2 procedures.
  • Trained 670 researchers and other campus personnel in proper requirements for shipping with dry ice.
  • Trained 541 campus researchers, staff and administrators about federal and international shipping, importing and exporting regulations through online and in-class sessions.
  • Trained 332 researchers and other campus personnel on essential awareness and biological safety in BSL-3 laboratories.
  • Conducted 299 online training in DCM Orientation, DCM BSL-2 and Zoonotic/Lab Animal Allergy for DCM employees.
  • Trained 243 researchers on policies about Dual Use Research of Concern through online training.
  • Trained 229 researchers and staff members on proper use of autoclaves through online training.
  • Trained 133 researchers in identifying and registering projects meeting NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules.
  • Trained 21 Facilities Services employees on how to respond to potentially infectious sewage spills.

Customer Service

  • Investigated 42 incidents of laboratory spills, accidents, and procedural problem involving potentially infectious materials with no laboratory-acquired infections resulting from accidents.
  • Submitted 24 registration updates to the CDC in reference to laboratory operation changes.
  • Certified 437 campus biological safety cabinets ensuring safety of product, personnel and environmental protection.
  • Reviewed 146 I-129 visa applications.
  • Reviewed and approved 502 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule F (Biological Hazards).
  • Reviewed and approved 223 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule G (Recombinant or Synthetic DNA).
  • Reviewed and approved 232 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule H (Transgenic Animals/Plants).
  • Reviewed and approved 261 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule I (Shipping).
  • Reviewed 919 IACUC Protocols.

Internal Processes

  • Implemented new secure Federal Select Agent Portal information system (eFSAP) for managing Select Agent program information and changes to the entity registration.
  • Updated Select Agent Inventory System for more comprehensive data capture.
  • Updated HASMIS database to capture biosafety cabinet usage on campus for BSL-2+ laboratories and track annual performance verification.
  • Updated HASMIS database to record and generate reports on baseline serum samples for individuals enrolled in medical surveillance program.
  • Upgraded the non-destructive emergency access systems for BSL-3 labs across campus.
  • Updated Standards and Facility Descriptions for all BSL-3 facilities on campus.
  • Coordinated 2018 training schedule for BSL-3 Awareness Training and Bloodborne Pathogen courses to improve participation and compliance.
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