Roles and Responsibilities

The following represents language developed in collaboration with and for the West Texas A&M University research community.

The West Texas A&M University’s biological safety program developed from the University’s commitment to address and comply with federal and local requirements regarding the use of biohazards and recombinant DNA.

West Texas A&M University, the Institution

West Texas A&M University has instituted and maintains a biosafety program for all faculty, staff, and students at West Texas A&M University, who may be exposed to biological hazards during performance of their duties or activities. The program is designed to achieve and maintain regulatory compliance as well as provide a way for researchers as well as the public to be informed and protected from biohazards. The University specifically establishes and implements policies that provide for the safe conduct of biological and recombinant DNA research and that ensure compliance. The University also ensures proper training for the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) chair and its members, the Biological Safety Officer (BSO), and Principal Investigators (PIs).

Institutional Official (IO)

The President of West Texas A&M University has appointed the Vice President of Research and Compliance (VPRC) as the Institutional Official (IO) responsible for the biological safety program. The IBC is advisory to the VPRC who reports to the President on all matters relating to research and compliance. The President approves the faculty positions and the VPRC selects the chair. Administratively, the IBC and BSO report to the VPRC. The chair of the IBC also reports directly to the VPR. The final authority for decisions pertaining to the conduct of research and research compliance is the IO.

Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) is responsible for reviewing and approving recombinant DNA, infectious agents, and biohazard research at WTAMU and has overall oversight responsibility for the Biosafety Program at WTAMU as required by the Biohazardous Use Authorization (BUA).The IBC is responsible, as articulated in Standard Operating Procedure 15.99.05.W1.03AR Institutional Biosafety Committee Procedure, Biohazards and/or Recombinant DNA in Research, for reviewing research involving recombinant DNA and biohazardous research conducted at or sponsored by West Texas A&M University for compliance with the current versions of the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (NIH Guidelines) and the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), as applicable, and approving those research projects that are found to conform with these regulatory documents.

This review must include, among other items, an independent assessment of the containment levels required for the proposed research and an assessment of the facilities, procedures, practices, training, and expertise of personnel involved in the research.

Chair of the IBC

The chair of the IBC presides at all meetings of the IBC and may assign such additional duties to other members of the IBC as deemed necessary for the conduct of the work of the IBC. The chair of the IBC reports to the VPRC. The chair of the IBC also assures that members of the committee are appropriately trained.

Biological Safety Officer (BSO)

The BSO is the designated scientific-administrative officer who assures compliance and biosafety of research involving biohazards and/or recombinant DNA conducted at West Texas A&M University. The BSO provides technical advice to the IBC and researchers on laboratory containment, security, and safety procedures. The BSO oversees periodic and unscheduled inspections to ensure that laboratory standards are rigorously followed and reports significant problems or violations. The BSO reports directly to the VPRC.

The Office of Research and Compliance

The Office of Research and Compliance provides staff support to the IBC and the BSO. In addition, this office helps assure safety and compliance by conducting biosafety-related inspections and other monitoring activities, by performing training, and by assisting PIs and IBC members in the review and approval process. The office includes the Biosafety Occupational Health Program, whose mission is to ensure that all persons exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous biological agents in the course of their activities at West Texas A&M University, are offered the best possible information regarding the biological hazards to which they are exposed and access to competent occupational health medicine providers.

Department Heads and Deans

Every BUP IBC permit includes a signature of the PI’s supervisor as a part of the assurance. This signature acknowledges that the supervisor is aware of the permit and approves of all the information as presented. In addition, supervisors are responsible for assuring that research involving the use of biohazards and recombinant DNA is appropriately reviewed and approved by the IBC prior to the initiation of any work. The supervisors are also responsible for ensuring the facilities and infrastructure are adequate for the proposed work.

Principal Investigators (PIs)

The PI is the one individual researcher who is designated by the institution to direct a project or program and who is responsible to the institution for the scientific and technical direction of that project or program. It is the responsibility of the PI to carry out their research in compliance with all federal, state, and University requirements with approval from the IBC. Principal Investigators must be trained and knowledgeable in all appropriate laboratory techniques, safety procedures, and hazards associated with handling infectious agents and are responsible for the conduct of work with any infectious agents or materials. The PI is responsible for the proper training of laboratory staff and for enforcement of IBC rulings pertaining to lab-specific research. The PI is also responsible for lab manuals, SOPs, licenses, and permits for transport and use of biological agents and recombinant DNA.