Q&A: SFU’s BIO3 Lab now welcomes infectious disease research beyond COVID-19

November 03, 2021
SFU’s BIO3 Lab is one of a few biosecure facilities in Canada that is certified by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

While many members of the Simon Fraser University (SFU) community were working remotely in 2020, Dwayne Ashman, operations director of SFU’s BIO3 Lab, was on the Burnaby campus diligently helping set up the lab—the university’s newest core facility.

Over the last 10 years, SFU has invested in core facilities, which are purpose-built to house and provide access to infrastructure shared across the SFU research community and beyond. SFU’s BIO3 Lab is one of a few biosecure facilities in Canada that is certified by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

BIO3 stands for biocontainment for infections organisms, level three.

Alongside the lab’s Scientific Director and SFU Health Sciences Professor, Ralph Pantophlet, Ashman’s dedication and hard work helped quickly equip our researchers to safely join the global fight against COVID-19.

We recently sat down with Ashman to discuss the new services offered by the BIO3 Lab, what is on the horizon for faculty, and how the lab’s certification ensures the safety of researchers.

Dwayne Ashman, operations director of SFU’s BIO3 Lab.

What excites you the most about more in-person activities on campus?

The people and the energy that they bring to our campus is what I look forward to the most.

I think having more in-person activities will help cultivate more ideas which will translate into more research in SFU’s BIO3 Lab.

I was hired at SFU during the pandemic and have felt safe working on campus throughout it—but I am also excited to meet more of the people that I have been connected with virtually, be it over Zoom or email.

What services does the BIO3 Lab have to offer?

We want our researchers to be able to focus on their work in a safe and clean environment.

In addition to our existing services, we are expanding our offerings to cover managing day-to-day lab operations, which includes waste disposal, housekeeping and laundry service for scrubs used in the lab. We want to make the lab as simple and efficient as possible for research use.

The BIO3 Lab team provides safety training; lab access for approved independent research projects; consultations on prospective research plans; lab management such as waste disposal, general cleaning of floors, benches and equipment; equipment maintenance; autoclave management; and laundry service for scrubs used in the facility.

Currently, lab services and access are only available to the SFU research community. Our goal is to expand our capacity to also serve external academic and industry researchers in the near future.

What type of research is the facility designed to handle?

We worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada in ensuring the lab is held to the highest safety standards in Canada through its stringent certification process. When researchers use the facility, they can safely conduct research activities on Risk Group 3 pathogens, to help advance breakthrough discoveries that will benefit society.

Since the lab opened in 2020, while SFU researchers have been safely working on better understanding SARS-CoV-2 and how it causes COVID-19, we now welcome all SFU researchers working on other diseases related to Risk Group 3 pathogens.

If SFU researchers are interested in using the facility, they are encouraged to contact me at any time.

Learn more about our BIO3 Lab.

The Government of Canada's Research Support Fund (RSF) supports with funding for the BIO3 Lab. The RSF contributes to SFU maintaining modern and safe facilities that enable our researchers to keep up with changes in techniques and methodologies in their fields. The state of the university's research facilities impacts SFU's ability to participate in regional, national, and international research collaborations and to attract industrial partnerships. It is also a factor in the institution's ability to attract top faculty and students, and raise its research profile.