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In this memo, Blossom Damania, PhD, Vice Dean for Research at the UNC School of Medicine, outlines measures to allow the safe resumption of lab-based and human subjects research at the UNC School of Medicine.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, research across campus has been limited to minimal critical activities and research related to COVID-19 to protect staff, students, and faculty during this unprecedented time. As restrictions have lifted across the state and the community, the School of Medicine Office of Research has been working diligently with the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research (OVCR) on measures to allow the safe resumption of lab-based and human subjects research at the UNC SOM.

The OVCR provided campus guidelines to the UNC research community on May 23, which broadly outlined the policies that will guide research ramp-up starting on June 1. This will phase in the return of research faculty, staff and trainees to campus over time in a coordinated process, with specific governance and guidelines to be provided by the individual Schools and the College. The OVCR has also organized a research study team of infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, molecular virologists, genomics experts and data scientists that is working to develop a voluntary COVID-19 surveillance study that includes testing and contact tracing. This team’s work may inform future decisions around the conduct of research on campus.

On May 26, the School of Medicine (SOM) provided researchers with the guidelines that have been adopted by the SOM in careful consultation with SOM department and center leadership.

The documents include guidelines for lab-based research and human subjects research and were developed with the guiding principle of maintaining appropriate social distancing. Accordingly, key components of the plan include:

  • Keeping building occupancy below 50%
  • Adopting work windows and lab scheduling to minimize occupancy
  • Remote work as much as possible
  • Wearing masks while on campus and in lab
  • Safe lab practices

Research faculty responsible for laboratory space are expected to work with their chair or center director to draft a plan for their space and personnel that conforms with the guidelines.

Further updated guidance is expected over time as operations resume and these requirements will be updated to reflect any additional information over the coming weeks.

The SOM is grateful for the patience and perseverance of all its faculty and staff during this difficult time and looks forward to the safe resumption of our important research activities across the school. Please coordinate research activities within your unit and please contact your chair or center director if you have any questions. For questions related to the human subjects research guidelines, please contact