Understanding Biosafety and IBC Oversight

The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) was established under the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules to provide local review and oversight of nearly all forms of research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules. At Iowa State University, the IBC must approve any teaching or research project that involves:

  • use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules, including transgenic/gene edited animals or transgenic plants;
  • use of human or animal pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions, parasites);
  • use of soil, seed, plants, plant pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites) or other material received under a USDA APHIS compliance agreement or permit;
  • use of biological toxins;
  • administration of experimental biological products to animals;
  • field releases of plant pests received under a USDA APHIS PPQ permit;
  • field releases of genetically modified organisms that are under a USDA APHIS PPQ or BRS permit (e.g., not commercially available GMOs).

Projects that DO NOT require IBC review and approval include:

  • Diagnostic samples where analysis is completed at the ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Clinical samples purchased or obtained off campus not known to contain pathogens
  • Working with human cell lines requires BSL2 authorization (contact EH&S) but does not require IBC approval unless the human cell line is known to contain a pathogen or the cell line will be used in other activities that are covered by the IBC (pathogen work, use with recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, etc.). Work with human cell lines also requires Bloodborne Pathogen Training – please contact EH&S if you have any questions.
  • Samples of unknown makeup, analyzed in a researcher’s laboratory. However, all unknown samples must be handled at Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2).

However, once a virus or pathogen is identified and the research team plans to further manipulate the sample, IBC oversight is required.  Additionally, if the research team plans to run control samples of known viruses or pathogens, IBC oversight is required.

The purpose of IBC review of teaching and research projects is to provide for the safe conduct of work involving hazardous biological materials and to ensure compliance with applicable external regulations and Iowa State University policies.

The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) also has responsibility for reviewing the biological and public health safety programs at Iowa State University and for setting policies that comply with federal, state, and local regulations. IBC members are appointed by the Vice President for Research.

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) assists PIs with permit applications to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Veterinary Services, Plant Protection and Quarantine and Biotechnology Regulatory Services. EH&S can also assist with permit applications to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For further information or assistance regarding USDA or CDC permits, the permit application process or any other permit concerns, please contact Environmental Health and Safety (4-5359).