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Environmental Health & Safety

37 Dewey Field Road
Suite 6216
Hanover, NH 03755-3529
Phone: (603) 646-1762
Fax: (603) 646-2622




Viruses and viral vectors are extremely valuable research tools to the molecular biology community. As recombinant molecules, viral vectors are regulated by the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines, 2013). Thus, it is important for users to understand the origins of these tools and potential implications of their use.
See Biosafety Program Policies And SOPs For More Information

Biosafety Concerns Unique to Viral Vectors

Rendering an infectious virus to be replication incompetent or otherwise attenuated lowers the risk of working with them, and later generation viral vector systems are generally safer than early generation systems. However, these improvements in safety and the increased commercial availability of viral vectors have resulted in a culture around their use that includes a false sense of security and a decrease in practicing safe science. Furthermore, recombination events or contamination from wild-type virus can result in the presence of replication competent virus (RCV) in a population of replication deficient viral vectors.

NIH Guidelines FAQ's re: Working with Lentiviral Vectors

Research Oversight

Because viral vectors are subject to the NIH Guidelines, the Dartmouth Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) must review each project involving viral vectors. This review is done through registering the work in BioRAFT. IBC review will include a risk assessment to determine the appropriate biosafety level, PPE, and disposal methods. Use of a higher-level containment facility or PPE may be required in some cases, depending on the specific properties of the vector and/or insert. Special care should be given to the design and handling of virus vectors containing genes that make growth-regulating products (oncogenes, growth factors, etc), products released into the circulation, or products that may have a general effect on the host- immune system or may be shed from animals (toxins).

Required Training

All Researchers in labs that use viral vectors are required to take viral vector biosfafety training on BioRaft.


Last Updated: 9/14/22