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Latest revision as of 03:40, 21 June 2014

CoBRA wiki

   After reviewing the World Health Organization (WHO) Laboratory Biosafety Manual we have determined that in regards to table 1 and 2 the organisms and techniques we have used fall into group 1 for both tables. This classification thus dictates that we as a group have applied general microbiological techniques to an open wet lab setting. We as a group understand the importance safety in the lab have always held safety as a first priority. Before we even initiate the lab portion of our project we ensured that each and every wet lab member was briefed in sterile lab techniques and protocols to limit contamination as well as ensure the safety of each member, and the community.

   It is important to recognize that proper biological safety extends far beyond the confinements of a lab, it extends into the surrounding community and environment. In order to ensure that our team protected these extending areas from potential biological contaminants we organized a system of safe and secure waste disposal and sterilization to guarantee that none of our bacteria, despite its inability to function outside the lab, made it into the open environment. Initially, before we entered the lab, we considered the various risks and hazards that could arise as a result of our lab work. These risks consisted of improper disposal or bacteria, chemicals, and other lab materials. In order to overcome this obstacle we devised a system to properly dispose of these materials with the guidance of Shawn Dodd, a past Cochrane High Alumni and Health Sciences major at the University of Calgary. Since our group has not had the opportunity to receive formal lab safety training we have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that we understand the various MSDS and WHMIS symbols as well as proper lab techniques. As per iGEM’s request we have also invested in an emergency spill kit so that we are prepared to handle and contain any hazardous spills should they occur. Disposable materials used in the project ware autoclaved before disposal to avoid contamination.

   Should our project not go according to plan and our bacteria are released into the environment we have taken precautions to ensure that they do not thrive outside of a lab setting. By utilizing lab grade DH5α E.Coli cells we have effectively removed our bacterias ability to function outside of predetermined lab conditions. Over the years synthetic biologists have ‘trained’ specific strains of E.Coli to depend on lab conditions in order to survive, thus when these cells are suddenly exposed to external environmental conditions through improper disposal or accidental contamination they are unable to adapt fast enough to survive and die, thus leaving the environment unaffected. Despite the extremely low chance of malicious misuse with our lab chemicals and bacteria we have still taken precautions to limit any form of extreme misuse by storing our chemicals and bacteria in a locked room when they are not being used and having a teacher advisor supervising all lab protocols. This ensures that all team members are working with the highest degree of professionalism when in the lab.

   Our BioBrick parts, although brand new to the registry do not raise any safety issues. With that being said we still recommend that future teams exercise basic biological safety when working with our parts as well as report any identified safety issues surrounding our parts to our team

   Our institution does not have a biosafety group, committee or review board. The protocols and biosafety rules we followed were the GMT (good microbiological techniques) as outlined in the world health organization laboratory biosafety manual. ( These were in line with our federal biosafety regulations. ( None of the parts that we used in our project this year are classed above BSL 1.

   We are going to use this question as an opportunity to discuss future potential risks and impacts of our successful project. If our project were to become commercially viable, something that is still years away, we have plans for several safety features included in the bacteria itself. First of these would be a limited lifetime, something that would be necessary to prevent our alien organism from persisting in the environment for too long. Secondly would be a kill switch, engineer our bacteria such that it is especially susceptible to a an as yet undetermined substance. These plans however, at the present stage, are still entirely unnecessary. Our plasmid has no secretion tag present, nor are our cells capable of surviving anywhere other than in laboratory conditions.

   With these safety features in mind there are still several potential issues that may arise. Primarily that the chitinase that our bacteria is engineered to produce will affect organisms other than its intended target, the Blue Stain Fungus. Between now and commercial viability however much more research will be done into this particular form of chitinase and which organisms it could potentially affect. Furthermore there is the potential, however slim that our biological machine will work better than anticipated, including a possibility of elimination of the Blue Stain Fungus from this ecosystem entirely. However much thought has been put into eminimating this slim possibility.