Epidemics and disasters require nimble response and specialized expertise. For nearly 20 years, MRIGlobal has been engineering, deploying and staffing modular, portable laboratories for accurate infectious disease detection, surveillance and response.
Now, new versions of mobile laboratories are available to address a myriad of biological and chemical threats, with improved features. MRIGlobal’s mobile laboratory product line includes Athena, Mercury, and CBCS (Containerized BioContainment System).
“MRIGlobal’s mobile lab solutions have become essential infrastructure to many nations and customers in diagnosing infectious diseases and other biological and chemical threats around the globe,” said Dean Gray, Ph.D., Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at MRIGlobal.
Athena is a mobile, expandable laboratory space on par with brick and mortar laboratories, offering 82% more floor space and 40% more lab bench space than prior models – without adding to the shipping footprint. The ISO standard 20-ft-long shipping container converts to modular workspace suitable for laboratory use.
Mercury is a mobile molecular biosurveillance laboratory that can be transported and operated by one individual. This enables the laboratory to be taken to the sample, no matter how distant or remote the site.
Athena and Mercury join MRIGlobal’s flyable medical transport unit, CBCS, which was recently used to assist in the evacuation of US citizens from Asia, for a full range of next-generation, field-forward laboratory capabilities.
Athena features an 18-ft section that expands when in use. “In situations when laboratory throughput is critical, Athena maximizes valuable workspace for essential lab services with an efficient design that doesn’t add to shipping costs,” said Christopher Hollars, Ph.D., Associate Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at MRIGlobal.
As with earlier mobile lab models, Athena is rapidly deployable to remote, austere environments around the world, and features interior environmental control capabilities and safety features for personnel protection. Each unit is designed for rapid conversion to meet a broad range of analytical capabilities for detection of bacterial, viral, and toxin targets, and a wide range of explosive and chemical agent-related targets. Units are shipped by air, boat or truck, just like any ISO standard 20-ft-long shipping container.
Other Athena features include upgraded flexible power options, improved security features for access control, more protection from vibration for sensitive scientific instruments, improved and more efficient interior ergonomic features, better airflow and temperature control, and an integrated alarm system.
“Athena builds on our deep expertise in providing innovative solutions in environments where they’re needed most, improving global health and defense in times of crisis,” stated Dr. Gray. He added, “Now, Athena systems are ready for deployment to assist in the fight against coronavirus anywhere in the world — for use from the parking lot of a medical center in a city, or in rural or remote areas.”
“Mercury is a single-person, portable laboratory workbench designed for point-of-need operations,” said Joseph Russell, Ph.D., Senior Scientist. “It provides logistical streamlining so that samples for advanced molecular diagnostics, biosurveillance and forensic testing can be processed on-site, thereby reducing the time to acquire an actionable result and safeguarding the quality of the sample by eliminating the need for extended transport.”
“Mercury is a purpose-driven platform with all of the equipment needed for a deployable laboratory workbench solution,” said Joseph A. Bogan Jr., Ph.D., Director of Global Health Surveillance and Diagnostics at MRIGlobal.
Contained in a single, lockable grab-and-go case, Mercury is designed to travel easily — whether on foot, by plane, car or even motorbike. On site, Mercury can be set up in a matter of minutes to begin processing samples. Mercury, with its complete array of capabilities, provides all necessary logistics to perform full biological profiling of samples on site. Results can be generated in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks, alleviating the problem of transport-compromised samples.
CBCS was designed and fabricated with funding from the Paul G. Allen Ebola Foundation for the U.S. Department of State to address the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The CBCS units are state-of-the-art mobile biocontainment systems. At 8-ft-tall, 8-ft-wide, 44-ft-long, and weighing 22,000 pounds, the CBCS custom design fits neatly inside cargo planes. The inner wall is steel with insulation and an aluminum outer panel. Inside, the unit contains basic medical equipment and oxygen to provide comfort and aid to patients for up to 16 hours while supporting strict biosafety best practices.
“CBCS keeps patients in a care environment while maintaining full biocontainment,” Dr. Gray commented. He explains, “There’s really nothing like CBCS in the world. Patients can to be cared for by professional medical staff who are wearing protective equipment — all inside the unit. It’s all completely contained. When we finished the CBCS, we knew we were ‘ready for the next big thing’ and now we have COVID-19.”
For more information about the new line of laboratories, visit mriglobal.org.