Mitigating health risks to reopen a clinical research laboratory during the COVID-19 pandemic: a framework

Eloise M. Walker, Alice E. Jasper, Lauren Davis, Kay Por Yip, Aduragbemi A. Faniyi, Michael J. Hughes, Helena A. Crisford, Daniella A. Spittle, Elizabeth Sapey, Kylie B.R. Belchamber, Aaron Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many countries implementing lockdown procedures, resulting in the suspension of laboratory research. With lockdown measures now easing in some areas, many laboratories are preparing to reopen. This is particularly challenging for clinical research laboratories due to the dual risk of patient samples carrying the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the risk to patients being exposed to research staff during clinical sampling. To date, no confirmed transmission of the virus has been confirmed within a laboratory setting; however, operating processes and procedures should be adapted to ensure safe working of samples of positive, negative, or unknown COVID-19 status. Objective: In this paper, we propose a framework for reopening a clinical research laboratory and resuming operations with the aim to maximize research capacity while minimizing the risk to research participants and staff. Methods: This framework was developed by consensus among experienced laboratory staff who have prepared to reopen a clinical research laboratory. Results: Multiple aspects need to be considered to reopen a clinical laboratory. We describe our process to stratify projects by risk, including assessment of donor risk and COVID-19 clinical status, the COVID-19 status of the specific sample type, and how to safely process each sample type. We describe methods to prepare the laboratory for safe working including maintaining social distancing through signage, one-way systems and access arrangements for staff and patients, limiting staff numbers on site and encouraging home working for all nonlaboratory tasks including data analysis and writing. Shared equipment usage was made safe by adapting booking systems to allow for the deployment of cleaning protocols. All risk assessments and standard operating procedures were rewritten and approved by local committees, and staff training was initiated to ensure compliance. Conclusions: Laboratories can adopt and adapt this framework to expedite reopening a clinical laboratory during the current COVID-19 pandemic while mitigating the risk to research participants and staff.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22570
Number of pages9
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020


  • Clinical laboratory
  • COVID-19
  • Framework
  • Lab
  • Research
  • Risk
  • Risk assessment
  • Safety
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Mitigating health risks to reopen a clinical research laboratory during the COVID-19 pandemic: a framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this