New biological safety team supports VU researchers, institutional biosafety committee

As a next step in the university’s ongoing drive to establish its Environmental Health and Safety department, Vanderbilt has created a new biological safety team and has transitioned all biological safety support from Vanderbilt University Medical Center as of Nov. 30.

Robin Trundy, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety and the university’s institutional biosafety officer, leads the biosafety team. Trundy initially joined Vanderbilt in 2010 and served as the institutional biosafety officer and as assistant director of Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety and the VUMC Office of Clinical and Research Safety until January 2021. During this time, she led the Biological and Animal Care Safety section that developed and implemented most of the institutional biosafety policies that currently exist for VU and VUMC. After a brief stint in the private biotechnology sector, Trundy rejoined the university in December 2021 to support the effort to establish a new EHS department that exclusively serves Vanderbilt University researchers and their dynamic and expanding endeavors.

“Vanderbilt is so fortunate to have Robin Trundy heading up our university biosafety efforts, as well as the strength of her team including Kyle Becker and Matt Loch. She brings a great depth of both Vanderbilt and biological safety knowledge and experience to the role,” said Andrea George, assistant vice chancellor for environmental health, safety and sustainability. “Once again, Robin will establish and lead a strong biosafety section that will closely partner with VU investigators to ensure the safe use of biomaterials in all of our research activities.”

Prior to joining Vanderbilt in 2010, Trundy led academic research biosafety programs at Oregon State University, Michigan State University and the University of Tennessee–Knoxville. She also served as the chemical and biological safety officer for the Battelle Biomedical Research Center from 2007 to 2010. Trundy has a bachelor’s in biology from Gannon University and a master’s in environmental health management from Oregon State and is a registered biological safety professional and certified biological safety professional.

The other members of the biosafety team are Kyle Becker and Matt Loch, who serve as biological safety officers. Becker, who joined the team in March, came to Vanderbilt in 2010 as a graduate student, and from 2016 to 2022 was a research assistant in a Vanderbilt University School of Engineering lab. Becker holds a bachelor’s in biochemistry and genetics/cell biology development and a master’s in microbiology and immunology.

Loch joined the team in April. He came to Vanderbilt in 2014 as a research assistant at what is now the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt, and then served as a laboratory manager. He has prior experience in analytical labs and holds a bachelor’s in chemistry.

With the establishment of the biosafety team, a wealth of materials has been developed to support Vanderbilt researchers, including planning guides for biomaterial use, lab setup and equipment guides, biological waste management guides, and biosafety courses and training. These materials can be found on the Biological Safety page of the Environmental Health and Safety website.

Institutional biosafety committee

The Vanderbilt University Institutional Biosafety Committee has existed for decades and now works in partnership with the new biological safety team. The VU IBC provides review and oversight of research involving the use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules as required by the National Institutes of Health as well as research involving the use of human-derived materials, nonhuman primate-derived materials, infectious agents and acutely hazardous biological toxins. The committee plays an active role in reviewing research activities to ensure compliance with federal regulations and to support environmental and researcher safety. IBC members include faculty, community members and administrative staff.

“Groundbreaking research and discovery are essential to the fabric of Vanderbilt University and its vital mission,” said Julian Hillyer, Centennial Professor of Biological Sciences and chair of the VU IBC. “I want to thank our IBC members, who spend countless hours evaluating research protocols to partner with and support our principal investigators in providing a safe and healthy environment for everyone in the research community using biological materials.”

To learn more about biological safety at Vanderbilt, visit the Environmental Health and Safety website.