Team:OLS Canmore AB CA/Safety.html






Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?

Researcher Safety
The organism we are using to conduct our project is a laboratory strain of Escherichia coli. Specifically, NEB10-beta competent E.coli, a high efficiency strain derived from New England Biolabs Incorporated. NEB10-beta is treated as a Biosafety Level 1 organism. This level is suitable for work involving well-characterized agents not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adult humans, and of minimal potential hazard to laboratory personnel and the environment (Centre for Disease Control, 1997). Safeguarding our lab is accomplished by following standard decontamination and laboratory procedures such as disinfecting lab surfaces with ethanol, autoclaving, bleaching, wearing gloves, wearing a lab coat, and wearing safety goggles.

Public Safety
Respect for public safety is addressed since the organism we are using is non-pathogenic. Furthermore, non-pathogenic E.coli is already present in the human gut. Nevertheless we took steps to ensure genetically modified organisms would not come in contact with school teachers not involved with iGEM who have access to the laboratory prep space. We limited access to E.coli, DNA, stains, and enzymes by locking fridges/freezers, placing signs indicating “incubating bacteria,” and by using separately marked bins for collection of any bacterial contaminated waste to be autoclaved as well as a separate bin for used gels.

Warning Signs Warning Signs
Counter space Locks on refrigerator

We keep the area secure with key-only access and have not seen any examples of potential misuse of our promoter or wintergreen enzyme generator to date. There are similar risks of misuse with a number of the commonly used high school laboratory chemicals in the lab storage area. It is for this reason that we restrict access as a general best-practice for the safety of all school community members.

Environmental Safety
Our project poses minimal threat to the environment. Strains like E. coli K12 are well-adapted to the laboratory environment, and, unlike wild type strains, have lost their ability to thrive in non-laboratory environments. Many lab strains lose their ability to form biofilms (Vidal O, Longin R, Prigent-Combaret C, Dorel C, Hooreman M, Lejeune P (1998)) meaning, if the bacteria somehow entered the environment the bacteria would not likely be able to thrive. Even so, there is always an inherent risk of releasing genetically modified organisms into the wild and for this reason proper lab decontamination procedures are always followed.


Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise safety issues? If yes, did you document these issues in the Registry? How did you manage to handle the safety issue? How could other teams learn from your experience?

We did not encounter any safety issues for the temperature promoter and or wintergreen enzyme generator as described in the parts registry; no other team who had previously used the same parts expressed any safety issues. Neither of these parts pose significant danger. The first part we are using is a generator of methyl salicylate—which is an organic ester naturally produced by many species of plants. Since methyl salicylate is an organic compound and it is used in many commercial fragrances, foods and beverages, this biobrick was considered safe. The second part is a heat-activated promoter. Being a promoter, its safety is dependent on what it is promoting. As we are using it to promote the generation of methyl salicylate its use in this project did not raise any safety concerns.

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project? If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?

Our school division safety committee does not have any guidelines with respect to Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology. Our team invited the head of our division’s safety committee to visit our lab, and we discussed the new materials, equipment and protocol used for the iGEM project while personally touring her through the lab. She agrees we are in compliance with the general safety protocols of our school division with respect to laboratory practices. We are following guidelines given to us on site by a group of mentors with experience working in the field. Familiarity with safety (hazards, possible contaminations, disposal) in the newly configured lab space require regular communication to any new staff in the lab space including custodial staff, teachers, and students new to iGEM.

Have you consulted anybody regarding biosafety?
We have consulted biotechnology mentors from University of Calgary and have put together the following guidelines for general use:

Safety for support staff
We have moved recycling out of the lab prep area and support staff access is restricted to emptying any regular garbage that we may have. Regular lab prep for high school science labs has its own separate counter space.


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?


Our DIY dremelfuge is operated behind safety glass and inside of a paint can operated with a direct plug-in outside of the fume hood. iGEM teams considering utilizing this DIY plan in the future are encouraged to consider the safety requirements of such high RPM with potential for a tube to become dislodged at high speeds. DIY Incubator/shaker table risk of electrical short is minimized with fuses on the turntable power supply, breaker on the power bar, and GCFI wall plug in.

We are concerned with the treatment of hazardous waste like that of DNA staining dyes. Although we are dealing with microliters of staining dye per gel, the disposal of such type of waste is outside the scope of our small municipality. Our team has made arrangements for proper disposal of such hazardous waste in Calgary. We would encourage other start-up high school iGEM teams to consider ahead of time their disposal needs, as it can be challenging in small communities to treat specific wastes appropriately.

2014 Our Lady of the Snows iGEM