Team:Jefferson VA SciCOS/Safety



Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?
The organism we used was the NEB-10 strain of E. coli (Biosafety level 1). If it were to be accidentally released, the risks would be minimal, because this strain of E. coli cannot survive outside of a controlled lab environment. The primary source of safety concern in this experiment would be the Bunsen burners used to create a convection current of air to prevent foreign pathogens from contaminating cultures. However, all the researchers have experience with performing experiments nearby Bunsen burners, and as such these pose minimal risk.

Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise safety issues?
The BFP split gene part that we made is based on a protocol that was developed by a 2007 iGEM team. Since the part functions as a reporter gene, we do not see any safety issues that could arise due to fluorescence. In addition, this part is connected to a pathway that was submitted by a previous iGEM team and has already been accepted by the registry. The moderate ribosome binding site that connects the rest of the pathway and the split BFP gene, B0032, is also part of the registry already.

If yes, did you document these issues in the Registry? Not applicable.

How did you manage to handle the safety issue? Not applicable.

How could other teams learn from your experience? Not applicable.

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? Being a high school, TJHSST does not have an official review board to provide oversight. However, the lab directors in charge of the biotechnology department served the same role by requiring all purchases, protocols, and experiments to be approved by them prior to any action being taken. Within our own iGEM team, we formed a subcommittee who approved any suggestions prior to sending them to the lab directors for approval, and who also familiarized themselves with the protocols necessary to guarantee a safe environment.

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?
We believe that organization and planning are especially important for safety. Mistakes and accidents are only more likely to occur when people are unsure of exactly what they are doing or when there are too many people attempting to perform the same task. The parts and chassis themselves are already quite safe, as only an optimum lab environment can sustain them, negating the possibility of devices being able to propagate beyond the lab by themselves. Where there is room for improvement is in the behaviors of the researchers themselves. Adequate training and preparedness is vital for researchers to maintain a safe and controlled lab environment.