Team:UCL Academy/Safety


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Safety comes first!

Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:

Researcher safety

There are a number of standard lab reagents that we require the use of in our project, that are harmful on contact. These include: Ethidium Bromide Material Safety Data Sheet for Ethidium Bromide Acute: Hazardous when ingested or inhaled, and is an irritant of the skin and eye. Chronic: In the long term exposure can have carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects, and can cause developmental toxicity.

Environmental safety

At the end of our project we are planning to release engineered E.coli into the rivers or other water bodies containing algae bloom. Our engineered organism will contain four gene network responsible for the following: degradation, resistance to the harsh conditions, buoyancy and the kill switch. In the water bodies where there is no possible physical containment of bacteria. This raises multiple concerns as to whether the use of living machines may integrate into and alter the local ecosystem, and potentially spread.

Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?

One of our biobricks we are proposing to use a lead promoter. High levels of lead are found in algae bloom populations therefore we would like our biobrick to be able to correspond to the levels of lead.

Did you document these issues in the Registry?

None of the submitted biobricks have safety issues discussed above.

How did you manage to handle the safety issue?

As we did not clone the lead promoter we did not proceed onto characterisation part, therefore we did not carry out the characterisation of the biobrick. Safety issues are not applicable!

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?

Yes! We have the Departmental Genetic Modification Safety Officer (DGMSO) as well as the College Genetic Modification Safety Committee, who must approve of our experiments before we carry them out. Firstly, we complete risk assessments, which have to meet UCL Safety Rules. Secondly we had to be trained to do a particular experimental work. Finally, we must be supervised at all times by our supervisors.

If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?

They are interested in our project, and they are fully supportive of our lab work and they make sure we follow all safety requirements.

Do you have any other ideas how to deal with safety issues that could be useful for future iGEM competitions? How could parts, devices and systems be made even safer through biosafety engineering?

Biosafety is one of the key aspects of the iGEM competition. We are proposing an implementation of a kill switch which will prevent a transfer of GMOs DNA once it is no longer stable.