New research protocols and restrictions

March 18, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I know that you understand our need to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2).  In addition to moving all teaching online and asking all students living in residence halls who can to leave campus for the remainder of this semester, I am requesting that effective immediately all on-site laboratory research at Brandeis plan for rapid ramp down until at least April 15. In addition, all research involving face-to-face interactions with participants, including new enrollment for studies involving face-to-face human subjects, must stop immediately until further notice.  While I hope that the policies below will only need to be in place until mid-April, I ask that you prepare for the possibility that these limited laboratory access policies may need to be in place for a longer period, or that more stringent measures may be needed.  This is not a closure of the university or a complete cessation of all research-related activities.  The policies below are meant to allow researchers to continue critical functions while minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.

I recognize that the impact of this current pandemic may cause delay and/or loss of research productivity. I understand that this may be of particular concerns for junior faculty, and I am in discussion with the Deans about this with respect to reappointment and tenure timetables.

We are at war with an enemy that is invisible and unwittingly propagated by strangers, colleagues, and loved ones.  I have instituted these new policies with a full understanding of how disruptive they are, however, they are necessary to further mitigate the impact of this virus to better protect all of you and our wider community. 

Sincerely,

Lisa

Lisa M. Lynch, Provost

Brandeis Research Continuity Plan

March 18, 2020

Effective immediately all researchers (faculty, staff, undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, and visiting scientists and scholars) are asked to ramp down on-campus research activities and shift to remote work off-campus to the maximum extent possible. Please delay or stop as much on-campus work as possible.  All those who remain in research laboratories must continue to follow health and safety guidelines such as physical distancing of 6 feet, scheduling shift work when possible, proper and frequent handwashing, and routine cleaning of all work surfaces. All lab meetings should be held remotely, if they are not already being held this way.

As of Friday, March 20, the density in laboratories at any point in time must be reduced to 3 or fewer essential personnel. 

No later than Thursday, March 26, the only activities occurring in research labs will be essential functions to maintain critical equipment, instruments, samples, reagents, and resources (e.g. cell lines or animal strains). Experiments that are not critical must be postponed. In those instances where critical research cannot be postponed, work must be restricted to long-term (ongoing) experiments and activities that would inflict significant financial and data loss if not completed; this includes work to maintain critical samples and animal populations.  Any PIs continuing research on campus must obtain approval from their chair or the head of the division of science if the PI is a department or program chair; such requests must include specific “coronavirus” lab protocols. 

To ensure continuity of critical lab functions, all PIs should make sure that they have identified critical infrastructure and procedures that require daily/weekly personal attention. Critical infrastructure includes anything that cannot simply be powered down and walked away from, or whose continued operation is necessary to maintain another critical resource (e.g., tissue cell culture maintenance, -80 freezers, liquid nitrogen storage, and animal studies).

Each Principal Investigator (PI)/Supervisor must have contact information for all critical staff and should provide this information to your respective department/unit business offices.  Please also review contingency plans and emergency procedures with all laboratory personnel/staff. Everyone should be prepared for some of your laboratory personnel to self-quarantine, fall ill, or otherwise be absent.  Please establish, if you have not already done so, protocols to communicate with members and essential personnel via email, Skype, Zoom, text, etc. Please designate essential personnel to monitor and manage cell cultures, biological samples, animals, etc. as needed if you have not already done so. To help with your planning here is a link to MIT with their checklist for lab ramp down https://ras.mit.edu/sites/osp/files/uploads/mit-laboratory-ramp-down-checklist-2020-03-17.pdf.

The Animal Care Facility staff will continue to provide the standard level of service and animal husbandry. (See below for details.)  We expect to restrict facility access to facility staff and the Attending Veterinarian.  If it is absolutely necessary for lab members to be physically present in the lab, please contact Debra Goodwin for access.  Everyone working in the facility must follow health and safety guidelines such as social distancing, scheduling shift work when possible, proper frequent handwashing, and routine cleaning of all work surfaces.

During the next week Brandeis University’s core facilities and recharge centers will be safely altering activities consistent with the ramping down of overall lab research. These include: The Brandeis Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facilities (BrUNMR; Sue Pochapsky), Cell Sorter (Jennifer Sherk), Computational Core Facility (Steve Karel and John Edison), Confocal Imaging Lab (Ed Dougherty), Electron Microscope Facility (Avi Rodal), Genomics/Proteomics Core Facility, Microfluidic Fabrication Facility (Seth Fraden), Transgenic Mouse and Viral Transfection Facility (Sacha Nelson). , and the X-Ray Structure Determination Facility.  Access for outside users will be suspended.

During this time core facility personnel will need to focus their efforts on preventing loss of instruments, equipment, resources, reagents, and samples. Health and safety will be the top priority, and as with other research laboratory spaces, core staff should work from home whenever possible. If PIs/facility users absolutely require core facilities for key critical and essential experiments, these must be approved in advance, in writing from VPR and the respective core facility head. Please note that given the evolving nature of this current situation, access to core facilities cannot be assured even for any possible essential experiments.

During the time that laboratories are minimally staff or closed, it is important that certain personnel at the University know what essential activities are being maintained, who will be maintaining them, and who can be contacted in an emergency. Sharing this information protects your lab and the University. We are asking that you provide your plans to your department chair and Operations Manager.

Research involving on- and off-campus face-to-face interactions with participants, including new enrollment for studies involving face-to-face human subjects, must stop immediately until further notice. From a regulatory perspective, this is considered a temporary pause in human subjects research activities for those studies impacted.  If the study needs to be paused, please notify any sponsors and funding agencies based on guidance in your award notice, agreement or contract.  If you are able to continue your research by changing your interactions to a remote mode and do not already have this covered in your IRB approved research protocol please submit a revised protocol to the IRB for quick review.

Research administrators in ORA and SPA will develop and disseminate information about extramural funding as it relates to salaries, stipends, reimbursement of paid expenses, extensions of performance periods, effort reporting, alternative use of awarded funds, project close-outs, and audit submissions.  They will also provide language that can be shared with programs and grants officers across agencies to satisfy documentation requirements. 

Brandeis Animal Care

In accordance with the Brandeis Research Continuity Plan, by March 26th we plan to restrict facility access to facility staff and the Attending Veterinarian.  Experiments that are not critical must be postponed and colony populations must be reduced.  This includes only maintaining a minimum number of breeding pairs.  If it is absolutely necessary for a researcher to be physically present in the facility after March 26th, please contact Debbie Goodwin as soon as possible. 

Everyone working in the facility must follow health and safety guidelines such as social distancing, scheduling shift work when possible, proper frequent handwashing, and routine cleaning of all work surfaces. The Foster Lab has contingency plans in place for animal health and welfare as this outbreak begins to affect the research activities on campus.  The base contingency plans are included here.

We have two levels of contingency plans linked to our staffing levels: Normal staffing levels (7 persons) with or without Brandeis closure or critical staffing levels (3-4 persons) with or without Brandeis closure.  We hope staffing at critical level, sustained for about a week, would be the worst case, but that may change and force us to institute further measures.

Please contact Debbie Goodwin (dgoodwin@brandeis.edu) or Ed Hackett (ehackett@brandeis.edu) if you have any questions or concerns.

Animal Care - Operations

Daily checks of animal health, food and water levels will continue in all areas

Cage changing will continue as normal

Animal Care – Veterinary Services

No change to veterinary clinical coverage

Labs will continue to be notified of sick animals via email and phone

Treatments will continue to be completed as usual

Support Services

We will work with researchers in person (as permitted) or via email to wean cages and label newly created cages in as clear a manner as possible. 

Cages will be weaned into a minimum of three cages (parents, males, and females).  Weanling cages will have a maximum of 5 mice per cage.  Additional weanling cages will be set up if the number will exceed the 5-mouse maximum.

Critical Animal Care Staffing levels

Animal Care - Operations

Foster staff runs on ‘skeleton’ crews to complete critical tasks only 

Daily checks of animal health, food, and water levels will continue in all areas

Adjust to ‘spot’ cage changing as necessary.

Animal Care – Veterinary Services

Labs will continue to be notified of sick animals via email and phone

Euthanasia will become the primary treatment recommendation required by the veterinarian for spontaneous clinical conditions in rodents

Lab support unavailable except for emergencies

Support Services

Cages will be weaned as time permits.