Featured News

Mobile Diagnostic Laboratories in Response to Ebola

Mobile Diagnostic Laboratories in Guinea and Sierra Leone Improved Speed of Diagnostics

When the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) calls with an interest in mobile diagnostic laboratories, you pick up the phone. In 2014, we did just that. 

At the time, DoD was responding to Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, because they were initially dependent upon local laboratories that were not near the remote outbreak epicenters, the turn-around to run tests was more than 24 hours. As you can imagine, a patient who is symptomatic and ill enough to visit for testing, is one who needs a prompt diagnosis and immediate care. 

DoD called on us to design, fabricate, equip, deploy and operate two mobile diagnostic laboratories, which were deployed in 2015. These mobile diagnostic laboratories were designed specifically to meet customer requirements to provide laboratory diagnostic capabilities in areas without strong public health systems.

More than just safe and secure containers, we provided modular, interchangeable systems that provide high-quality analytical results in a broad range of critical situations: clinical diagnostics, disease outbreaks, accident sites, terrorist incidents, military operations, natural disasters, or dangerous events near population centers.

For this response, our on-site engineering proved necessary for on-site setup and operation. Staffing of these mobile diagnostic laboratories then helped support prompt and accurate testing of up to 110 samples per day, reducing sample turn-around times to less than four hours.  

Upon our return from the field, this platform served as the basis for development of the Athena Mobile Laboratory, which is a ground-up redesign of the mobile lab system concept. This new container provides a greatly enhanced mobile laboratory workspace capable of rapid worldwide deployment. The platform is custom built to eliminate the limitations involved with modifying a shipping container into a lab. This allows for an enhanced structural design and better insulation to provide a more ergonomic workspace better protected from harsh environmental conditions.

For additional background on how our Athena Mobile Laboratory supports an effective infectious disease response, read this case study from Labconco, whose equipment was utilized during our deployment to West Africa. 

Evacuation of Medical Professionals

Despite protective measures, doctors sometimes get sick too. And when they do, it’s critical to provide them with the best possible medical treatment. 

While providing care during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, medical professionals were infected by the virus and needed to promptly access care in the United States. Unfortunately, flying with patients who are sick and highly infectious comes with great risk to everyone caring for them.

In response, we designed and fabricated the Containerized Bio-Containment System (CBCS), a flyable biocontainment unit that fits four patients and four caregivers. The system maintains full containment, stopping the spread of the virus, while keeping the flight crew safe and preventing the spread of the disease. 

More recently, during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, our biocontainment technology helped with the evacuation of cruise ship passengers docked in Japan. The ship had been quarantined for 10 days and needed a safe way to evacuate its passengers. In this case, patients were safely transported to receive proper medical attention.

Recently, our Peter Anderson and Jay Mansheim spoke with Dean Gray on MRIGlobal’s “Gray Matter” podcast, discussing how we engineered world-class mobile laboratories in response to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa that delivered diagnostics to the people in need and helped extract those who needed enhanced care.


Contact MRIGlobal to further understand our work in infectious diseases. We offer a broad portfolio of infectious disease testing assays and capabilities across diagnostic disciplines, from screening and diagnosis to genotyping, therapy, and monitoring. Those seeking analysis of infectious disease tests can trust in our breadth of experience and knowledge – not just on the subject matter, but FDA protocols as well.   

To learn more about the work we’ve done or how we can help you, contact us today. If you are part of an agency, business, or academic institution seeking assistance with a project, use our Project Quote Tool to get started.   


Sign up  for the MRIGlobal newsletter! It’s the best way to get the latest updates in the world of applied scientific engineering research delivered directly to your inbox.