Biosafety lab gains acclaim

Colin Morris

Friday ceremony planned for national distinction

Kent State has been designated one of two facilities in the country suitable for one-week laboratory training programs in preparation for threats like the H1N1 virus and bioterrorism.

The recognition is from the National Institutes of Health, which offers the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program through Frontline Healthcare Workers Safety Foundation, Ltd.

Chris Woolverton, associate professor of biological sciences, said the program will not only allow Kent State to showcase “its premier faculty and facilities,” but also bring some of the best minds to the university.

Woolverton, who is also director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness, likens the program to leaving a job in his field to teach at the university.

“Being able to influence future generations of scientists is, to me, an important endeavor,” he said. “(It) allows me not only to teach skills, but to gain perspective on how people learn and how college coursework helps them in the field. That’s what preparedness is all about.”

Dr. Murray Cohen, president and chairman of the Frontline Foundation, says the program is particularly important because of modern biochemical threats.

“Because of the increasing number of high-containment laboratories and the constant threat from emerging diseases and bioterrorism, there is a perpetual and desperate need for biosafety training of the highest caliber and the facilities in which to offer that training,” Cohen said in a press release.

The NBBTP requires training facilities to meet specific criteria that range from biosafety level (the ability of a lab to contain pathogens, measured on a scale of BSL1 to BSL4) to instructional staff and space requirements.

Jennifer Cole, associate director of Frontline Foundation, said only Kent State and Kansas State have been recognized as meeting the criteria so far.

“A number of places may have BSL3 labs,” she said, referring to the labs’ biosafety level, “but they may be hot,” meaning the labs are too crowded for other research or training.

A ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the Liquid Crystal and Material Sciences Building’s Samsung Auditorium. It will include addresses by former Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula; Dr. Deborah Wilson, director of the Division of Occupational Health and Safety at the National Institutes of Health; President Lester Lefton; Woolverton and Cohen.

Lefton said Kent State has worked hard for the recognition.

“Kent State went through a rigorous and thorough process to be selected as only the second Designated Training Facility in the country,” he said.

Contact faculty affairs reporter Colin Morris at [email protected]