Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

Letter from the NIH Director RE: Participation in National Biosafety Stewardship Month

The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) is charged with oversight of research involving recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids and biological agents including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and toxins. The scope, requirements, and role of the IBC is described in the UNL Biosafety Guidelines.

Hazards associated with pathogens and recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids may be encountered in many UNL research, clinical/diagnostic, and/or teaching activities.  The University must comply with certain regulatory requirements, generally recognized consensus standards, and/or funding agency guidelines to remain in good standing and retain funding eligibility, particularly as it relates to funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

IBC Meetings

IBC meetings are scheduled once per month during the academic year from September through May and as needed during the summer months.  Meetings are conducted in a manner that facilitates discussion, public attendance, and PI participation.  Committee business is always conducted in a live meeting and never conducted by email or other electronic means.  The current schedule is shown below and is posted on the University calendar accessed at  Meetings are held at the Environmental Health & Safety office training room.  PIs are notified of the meeting date at which their protocol will be discussed and are invited to attend at their discretion.

Covered Work Activities

The IBC has oversight over and the UNL Biosafety Guidelines apply to clinical/diagnostic, research, and teaching activities involving any of the following:

Recombinant and Synthetic Nucleic Acids

  1. molecules that a) are constructed by joining nucleic acid molecules and b) that can replicate in a living cell, i.e., recombinant nucleic acids;
  2. nucleic acid molecules that are chemically or by other means synthesized or amplified, including those that are chemically or otherwise modified but can base pair with naturally occurring nucleic acid molecules, i.e., synthetic nucleic acids, or
  3. molecules that result from the replication of those described in (i) or (ii) above. 

    This definition encompasses recombinant or synthetically derived nucleic acids, including those that are chemically or otherwise modified analogs of nucleotides (e.g., morpholinos), or both. 

Human, Animal, and Plant Pathogens

Clinical, diagnostic, research, or teaching activities normally and appropriately conducted at BSL-2 or higher containment; and any work requiring USDA, CDC or other federal permits, will be subject to review and approval by the IBC.  Work may be initiated only after submission of a completed IBC protocol registry form and approval by the IBC.

Biological Toxins

Work with toxins of biological origin is also subject to review and approval by the IBC when the toxin used is expressed in or produced by biological organisms and isolated for use in the lab.

Bloodborne Pathogens, as defined by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Human Blood, Tissue, Organs, Cell Lines and Other Potentially Infectious Materials, see the UNL Exposure Control Plan for more details.

Select Agents, including designated biologically-derived toxins, as defined by the United States Departments of Agriculture or Health and Human Services.

Use and/or Creation of Transgenic Animals or Plants, (other than field trials of transgenic plants authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS))

Field Collection or Sampling of Wild Animals

The following activities involving the field collection or sampling of wild animals requires submission of an IBC protocol registry form and approval by the IBC prior to initiation of work activities due to the risk of zoonotic diseases.

  • Trapping and handling of wild animals for surveillance of agents infectious to humans and/or animals designated at BSL-2 or higher.
  • Trapping and handling of wild animals that may transmit significant or life threatening zoonotic diseases (e.g., rabies, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) as determined by risk assessment of the target species and proposed procedures.
  • Laboratory processing of diagnostic samples collected from these studies.

Clinical/diagnostic, research, and teaching activities that do not involve human, animal, or plant pathogens; do not involve recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids; and are properly conducted at biosafety containment level 1 (BSL-1), are not subject to the UNL Biosafety Guidelines or review/approval of the IBC.

References and Resources

Questions or comments about the UNL IBC can be directed to the UNL Biosafety Officer at (402) 472-4925 or email at