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In animal research labs, animal transfer and bedding dumping generate high quantities of allergens, and performing these operations in a controlled environment is an effective means of reducing allergens

Additionally, protecting the animal from both the lab environment and cross-contamination from within the cabinet continues to be the researcher’s highest priority.

Traditionally, when personnel, product and environmental protection are required, a Class II Type A2 biological safety cabinet would be selected. However, they present some challenges when used for animal transfer or cage changing, in part because they offer front access only.

A Solution to Improve Efficiency for Animal Cage Changing

When the Jackson Lab, one of the world’s leading distributors of human disease mouse models, determined that a biological safety cabinet with access on both sides would make their process more efficient, they didn’t let the fact no such cabinet existed in the marketplace stop them. Instead they pursued a custom biosafety cabinet design that would fit their needs.

The cage changing process at Jackson Labs was inefficient. It required moving the cages to stationary biological safety cabinets situated on the room’s perimeter — a difficult task given that the heavy cage racks had to be moved 20 to 30 feet, locking and unlocking them along the way.

They determined that a biological safety cabinet that could be accessed from both sides and placed in line with a row of cage racks (instead of at the end of an aisle) could create a more ergonomic and efficient cage changing process.

Animal facility managers and engineers from The Jackson Laboratory and engineers from The Baker Company began working together to design the SterilGARD® Duo Biosafety Cabinet.

Ergonomic Biosafety Cabinet Design

Ergonomics were an important consideration in the development of the new biosafety cabinet. The cabinet has:

  • A deep well that allows for easier cage changing;
  • A lower work surface level to store supplies such as grain, water bottles and bedding;
  • Hydraulic adjustment capability to meet individual height and work requirements; and
  • Control functions and adjustments which can be made from either side.

Access to the work area via the sash is restricted to one side at a time. The bottom of the cabinet includes two ports or dumping bins for removal of supplies — one for waste, such as dirty bedding, and the other for recyclable/reusable materials, including the cages.

The cabinet design also included in new functionality to help improve the ergonomics of the cage-changing process and prevent repetitive motion injuries. For example, in the old work environment, technicians were responsible for manually twisting off the water bottle caps as they replaced them. The new cabinet has a pneumatic water bottle capper to automate this function. Additionally, the water bottles can be emptied within the new biological safety cabinet itself, making the task easier and safer for technicians. In the past, a technician had to remove the individual water bottles from the cages, place them on a cart, typically 50 at a time, and manually empty each bottle into a sink. In the new biological safety cabinet, the bottle can be emptied within the personnel containment environment and the dirty water is channeled through a hose connected to the cabinet, to a floor drain and finally out to the house waste system.

Collaboration Creates Results

The results of the collaboration between The Jackson Labs and The Baker Company were significant. The workflow process using the new cabinet design achieved incredible efficiencies. Today, the technicians are able to complete box changes on an average of 2,200 mice in only two days. Previously, they were only able to change about 1,200 boxes over the course of four days. Because of the unique design of the new work environment and the SterilGARD Duo Biosafety Cabinet, workplace efficiency has increased by at least 50 percent.

Read more about the project here