Colantonio Upgrades UMASS Medical Lab to BSL-3

Massachusetts-based General Contractor Colantonio Inc. completed renovations last month of a UMASS Medical School laboratory.  The upgrades to the 3,550 square-foot facility will make it only the second Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) lab at UMASS Medical, a significant advancement for the program.   Beacon Architectural Associates of Boston designed the project engineered by RDK Engineers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies laboratory facilities by the types of agents they work with and ranks labs on a scale of BSL-1 through BSL-4 based on the potential risks these agents pose to the community.  BSL-3 labs, like the one at UMASS Medical, work with highly infectious pathogens such as anthrax, West Nile Virus, SARS, or avian flu, for which there are available treatments.

"Every decision had to be approved by several different agencies within the government and the university," said Fran Colantonio, President of Colantonio Inc.  "It was a meticulous process, and safety was the highest priority.  We were thrilled to be a part of this huge addition to the UMASS Medical program."

The $4.2 million renovation included a massive HVAC overhaul, including the installation of a secure ducted ventilation system and HEPA filtered exhaust.  Biosafety cabinets -- enclosed, gas-tight workspaces-- were also installed throughout the lab for work with harmful pathogens. 

"It was an exciting project, with very strict protocol to follow," said Colantonio's Project Manager Kimberly Joyce.  "A BSL-3 requires careful attention to detail."  Joyce was certainly up to the task:  she came to the job with 25 years of success, managing extensive laboratory and cleanroom projects in the healthcare and biopharmaceutical markets. 

The renovation work was made possible by a National Institutes of Health grant, The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).  “This CTSA catapults UMass Medical School into the upper ranks of research institutions, positioning us alongside institutions like Harvard, Johns Hopkins and UCSF,” said John Sullivan, MD, vice provost for research and professor of pediatrics and molecular genetics & microbiology, according to the UMASS Medical School website.  The grant places the school among an elite consortium of 55 research institutions in the United States.