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Purpose of the Biosafety Unit

Working with biological samples can be potentially hazardous. This unit works to ensure the protection of WVU staff and students who work in our teaching and research labs, thereby ensuring the safety of the WVU community and general public. This is accomplished through the oversight of the biosafety, biosecurity, and biocontainment practices at WVU. 

As part of ABSA International Biosafety Month, the WVU Biosafety Office wanted to share a presentation focusing on biosafety as a career and discussing this year’s theme of “The Role of Biosafety and Biosecurity in Mitigating Emerging Risk”.  Typically, we share this information in person through events around campus.  Since this year is anything but typical, we adapted to the emerging risks of in-person events and developed a presentation to promote biosafety. 

Biosafety Presentation:



Read Behind the scenes in the biosafety office published by Nature

Key Definitions

What are biohazards?
Biohazards (biological hazards) are infectious agents or other hazardous biological materials that present a risk or potential risk to the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

What is biosafety?
A general definition of “biosafety” encompasses the practices, procedures, and use of equipment needed to ensure adequate safety conditions in all facilities that work with potentially infectious microorganisms and other biological hazards.

What is biosecurity?
The term “biosecurity” denotes the protection of hazardous biological agents, including toxins, from loss, theft, diversion, or intentional misuse.

What is biocontainment?
“Biocontainment” refers to the primary and secondary physical containment barriers in a laboratory facility. Current biosafety and biocontainment practices and procedures are designed to reduce the exposure of laboratory personnel, the public, agriculture, and the environment to potentially hazardous biological agents.

What are biosafety levels?
“Biosafety levels” (BSLs) are designations of laboratories in ascending order based on the degree of risk associated with the work being conducted. The designations are BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4.

What is biorisk?
“Biorisk” is the combination of the likelihood of the occurrence of an adverse event involving exposure to biological agents and toxins, and the consequence (in terms of accidental infection, toxicity, or allergy or unauthorized access, loss, theft, misuse, diversion or release of biological agents) of such an exposure.

What is a laboratory biorisk management system?
A “laboratory biorisk management system” is a comprehensive strategy used to develop and implement an organization’s biorisk policy and manage its biorisks. It includes objectives for achieving an effective set of biosafety, biocontainment, and biosecurity policies; a set of interrelated elements used to establish those policies; and mechanisms to implement the policies (including for example, risk assessment, and identifying responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources).

WVU Biosafety Contact
Ali Elliott, MS, PhD
HSC Safety Office
Biosafety Officer
Office: 304-293-7157