Biocontainment Laboratory—Duke University School of Medicine, Duke Human Vaccine Institute

The Duke University School of Medicine, Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) Regional Biocontainment Lab (RBL) is one of the NIAID-supported Biocontainment Laboratories.

The RBL supports basic research to develop drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for emerging and reemerging infections and biodefense. The RBL has a comprehensive safety and operations program to provide state-of-the-art biocontainment facilities for BSL2, BSL3, and Select Agent research

More information about this resource is available at Duke Human Vaccine Institute Regional Biocontainment Lab

Main Areas of Focus

  • To support the advancement of biodefense and infectious disease research
  • Pandemic preparedness and response
  • To support research programs in the areas of
    • Safety and biopreparedness
    • Vaccine/therapeutic development
    • Host response/immune monitoring
    • Proficiency testing/ quality assurance

Who Can Use This Resource

  • Investigators in academia, not-for-profit organizations, industry, and government studying biodefense and emerging infectious diseases may request the use of biocontainment laboratories.

How To Get Started

Support Services

Laboratory and Analytical Support

All of the following are available in both BSL2 and BSL3 containment spaces:

  • Immunology: In vitro functional assays, ELISA, flow cytometry and cell sorting, multiplex biomarker analysis (Luminex platform), and real-time PCR arrays
  • Virology:  Viral stock propagation/QC, neutralization services (microneutralization, HAI, PRNT), Viral Load (Plaque Assay, TCID50, qRT-PCR), and custom-designed in vitro antiviral testing
  • Bacteriology: Inoculum preparation and validation, stock propagation and Colony-Forming Unit assay, Compounds and Small molecule inhibitor testing, Endotoxin Assay 
  • Pathology services: Sample collection and necropsy for tissue collection/fixation, access to Duke Department of Pathology core lab for embedding/cutting

Ability To Accommodate cGLP or cGMP Studies?

  • Current GLP: HIV propagation and assays with quality control for proficiency panels; Luminex biomarker assays and Luminex proficiency testing (accredited to the ISO/IEC 17043:2010 standards by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation [A2LA])
  • Current cGMP: None


Animal Capabilities, Including Species and Containment Level(s)

Enhanced ABSL3 housing available for mice, rats, guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits.

Animal Models, Including Species, Disease, and Delivery Method

Current models in mice:

  • Yersinia pestis CO92, BSL3, aerosol, anterior cervical, footpad
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis multiple strains (sensitive, MDR, XDR), ABSL3, aerosol
  • West Nile virus IC7 & NY99, ABSL2, footpad, intraperitoneal, intradermal
  • Francisella tularensis SchuS4, ABSL3, aerosol, intradermal
  • Vaccinia virus WR and Cowpox virus Brighton Red, ABSL2, intranasal
  • Influenza virus PR8 (H1N1), X31 (H3N2), MA-A/California/04/2009 (pH1N1), and H5N1xPR8 reassortant, ABSL2/2+, intranasal
  • Cryptococcus gattii and C. neoformans multiple, ABSL2, aerosol
  • SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, all notable variants and mouse adapted USA-WA1/2020 ABSL3, intranasal

Current models in other species:

  • Ferrets: Influenza virus, various human isolates, H1N1 and H3N2, ABSL2, intranasal
  • Hamsters: SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, ABSL3, intranasal
  • Rabbits: Zika virus, ABSL2, IV, intradermal


  • Current Select Agent approval:
    • Bacillus anthracis Ames
    • Brucella abortis
    • Brucella suis
    • Brucella melitensis
    • Burkholderia pseudomallei
    • Francisella tularensis
    • Highly pathogenic avian influenza
    • Mpox virus
    • SARS-CoV coronavirus
    • Yersinia pestis
  • Other agents handled in the facility:
    • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (sensitive, MDR, XDR)
    • Mycobacterium bovis BCG
    • Staphylococcus aureus
    • SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
    • West Nile virus
    • Vaccinia virus,
    • Cowpox virus
    • Rabbitpox virus
    • Human influenza viruses (H1N1, H3N2, H7N9)
    • Low pathogenic avian influenza virus
    • Human rotavirus
    • Vesicular stomatitis virus
    • Yellow fever virus
    • Measles virus
    • Cryptococcus gattii
    • C. neoformans
    • N. gonorrhoeae
    • Chlamydia trachomatis
    • Chlamydia muridarum
    • Plasmodium falciparum
    • Reassortant avian influenza virus
    • Zika virus

Imaging Capabilities

Spectrum In Vivo Imaging System (IVIS, Perkin Elmer) with both luminescence and fluorescence detection, validated for mice at enhanced ABSL3 (Appl Biosaf. 2010;15(2):62-66; PMCID: 3515055)

Major Equipment Available

All of the following specialized resources and major equipment are installed, validated, and available at enhanced BSL3/ABSL3:

  • BD FACSAria IIuFACSymphony S6 cell sorter
  • Glas-Col Inhalation Exposure System – small animal bioaerosol challenges
  • Luminex bead array reader
  • Real-time Thermal Cycler
  • ELISA plate reader
  • Applied Biosystems Genetic Analyzer 3500XL

Shared Resources/Core Labs

The faculty and senior scientific staff of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute have assembled state-of-the-art technologies into Shared Resources (i. e. Core Labs) to accelerate research. These comprehensive Shared Resources are available to the entire Duke community and their collaborators. DHVI cores are supported with institutional funds and a variety of shared instrumentation grants, center grants, and program awards.

The RBL at Duke functions administratively as one of the eight DHVI Shared Resources and this membership allows RBL users access to a wide-range of cutting edge technologies and facilities to enhance their research.

  • Regional Biocontainment Laboratory: Home to a portfolio of collaborative research units focusing on Bacteriology, Virology, and Immunology. Fully-commissioned for BSL3/Select Agent work in late 2007 and has supported over 180 publications.
  • Research Flow Cytometry & Cell Sorting: Analytical/sorting on six analyzers and three cell sorters with up to 30 simultaneous parameters.
  • Biomolecular Interaction Analysis: State-of-the-art Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) BIAcore instruments for monitoring real-time interaction analyses and measurement of binding affinity, kinetics, and epitope mapping.
  • Immunology Virology Quality Assessment Center Laboratory: Delivery of CAP- and CLiA-certified immunologic and viral load assays (i.e. immunophenotyping; SIV viral load, HIV serology, HIV and HCV viral load; HIV acute infection disease staging, and large-scale cell separation.
  • Viral Genetic Analysis: Large-scale DNA sequencing, Next-Gen sequencing, and sequence data analysis, to serve the viral genetic analysis needs of researchers.
  • X-ray Crystallography: Automated crystallization systems and high resolution X-ray diffraction image collection to solve macromolecular crystal structures (crystallization trials, data collection, phasing, refinement, and analysis).
  • Protein Production Facility: Quality and standard recombinant protein production under “GxP best practices” or in vitro use.
  • Accessioning Unit and Clinical Trials Support: Centralized support for preparation of human clinical studies, collection of human specimens, and ongoing compliance oversight. Processing and continuous auditable storage/monitoring of frozen samples derived from studies/trials.

Contact Information