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Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues?

Regarding organisms, our project raises minimal concerns for safety. We use E. Coli bacteria, which has been classified as biosafety level one by the World Health Organization (WHO) Laboratory Biosafety Manual. E. Coli, “is a non-pathogenic strain that cannot permanently colonize the gut of healthy humans or animals” (WHO Laboratory Biosafety Manual). Our team also uses a DNA sequence from the Rhagium Inquisitor beetle, but we received the part directly and had no contact with the beetle.

We have managed to keep our lab safe, and have used reasonable safety precautions. No organisms or materials we handled in our lab were dangerous other than bunsen burners and UV lights, but we nevertheless enacted safety measures. We cleaned all surfaces with 70% ethanol, and sterilized all unsterile materials with an autoclave. We properly disposed of waste in the lab. All team members wore safety gloves and glasses when appropriate. A safety shower-and-eyewash was readily available in the lab, in case of emergency. UV-protection glasses were worn when we used UV lights to detect dye in electrophoresis gels. Heat-gloves were used by team members when handling potentially hot objects. All bunsen burners included safety shutoffs, and team members were instructed how to use these burners safely. Our instructor clearly led us through each lab process and all safety measures necessary before any of said processes were conducted.

If our project did not go to plan and the organisms or their byproducts were released, no immediate threat would be posed. As mentioned above, E. Coli is not a harmful organism. Furthermore, it can only live in a lab environment, and would not survive outside. The antifreeze protein that our project will supply also poses no threat. As stated in Yale’s 2011 IGEM team wiki, many antifreeze proteins “are already being used in industry and for consumer products” (

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

None of the devices we made raise any safety issues. As stated above, the antifreeze protein that our device expresses is unharmful and completely safe.

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

Our high school has no official biosafety review board. However, our science department and our instructor have reviewed all lab procedures we used, and they have ensured the continued safety of anyone in contact with the lab. Our lab also complies to all biology lab standards of the United States, as legally required.

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?

Many high schools require students to sign a Laboratory Safety Contract. This simple approach to lab safety strengthens student awareness of an appropriate lab safety culture.

Are contaminated materials and biohazard waste handled according to current guidelines?

Receptacles with biohazard bags are provided for the disposal of contaminated waste. Any material that has been contaminated with bacteria are placed in these buckets. No liquids containing bacteria are ever poured down the sink.
No cultures or culture material may be taken from the lab.
Non-Disposable contaminated materials are decontaminated and then are autoclaved and reused. Examples are plastic caps, forceps, and glass screw-cap tubes. Designated containers of disinfectant are provided for these items.