Planning to work with biological materials?

Anyone who plans to use biological materials for research, teaching, or testing purposes at the U of A must enroll in the EHS database. The institutional Biosafety Officers will review your registration to determine if you will be working with "regulated biological materials."

What are regulated biological materials?

Regulated biological materials go beyond those that are pathogenic or can cause other deleterious effects (such as bacteria, viruses, prions, biological toxins, and pests) to include materials that have the potential to be or to act as a carrier of a biohazardous agent, such as:

  • Animal tissues and byproducts
  • Aquatic species
  • Food from foreign sources
  • Human clinical specimens
  • Eukaryotic cell lines
  • Plants and plant derivatives
  • Soil
  • Environmental samples

Documentation requirements surrounding the shipment of regulated biological materials can be complicated and may involve regulatory permits and forms from commercial suppliers. Do NOT attempt to complete the transfer process yourself: get help from EHS.

Biotransfers: how to get help

Depending on the material you are shipping or ordering, its destination or origin, and which regulators are involved, it can take months to receive proper documentation. To expedite the process:

  1. Review the transfer instructions
  2. Register in the EHS database 
  3. Once you have registered, log in to the EHS database, navigate to the home page of the lab you will be shipping to/from, and "Request a biotransfer." (for more information, refer to the database manual)
  4. Participate in the process: Respond to requests for information from the Biosafety Officers as quickly as you can.
  5. Keep the Biosafety Officers informed: If anything changes, or you have new information about the transfer, notify the Biosafety Officers at as soon as possible.
  6. Be patient: EHS receives requests for transfer assistance each week. Your request will be processed in the order it was received. 

Want to learn more about biosafety at the U of A?

Read the U of A Biosafety Guidelines to learn more about working safely with biohazardous materials.


Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

The Polio Global Eradication Initiative

  • Led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
  • Ongoing for decades and now entering its final phase
  • Requires reporting of work with or storage of Polio potentially infectious materials (PIM):
    • Human fecal samples
    • Human respiratory samples
    • Concentrated sewage samples (or derivatives)
  • University researchers who work with or store Polio PIM must complete the reporting form by August 2, 2019