Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?
In our experiments we used only non-pathogenic organisms: Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S288C) and a typical lab strain of Escherichia coli (TG1). The fluorescent proteins used were isolated from naturally found organisms such as Discosoma sp. (blue mushroom corals) and Aequorea victoria (jellyfish). These proteins have been widely expressed in various other organisms. The localization proteins are all native to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, including the sequence which targets RAS proteins to the plasma membrane. These proteins are not hazardous either in their native organism or when expressed in yeast. Even if mishandled, any negative effects upon the researcher, the public or the environment would be expected to be negligible.
Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
None of the BioBrick parts submitted to the registry raise any unique or substantial safety issues. The fluorescent proteins themselves are widely published and available, along with the targeting sequences. We contemplate no biosafety or biosecurity issues with potential dual use of these parts.
Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
UC Berkeley has bio-safety rules regulated by the Environmental & Health Safety (EH&S) office as well as the Committee on Laboratory and Environmental Biosafety (CLEB). Their list of rules are outlined [http://ehs.berkeley.edu/healthsafety/biosafety/researchguidelines.pdf here]. Our project has been approved by EH&S after processing a document called the Biological Use Authorization (BUA), which asked us to outline our project and discuss any possible safety concerns our project may present. The BUA content is available here.
Each member of our lab received the requisite biosafety training before the project began. This included general laboratory safety, biosafety, and hazardous and chemical spill training. These training sessions are conducted by EH&S, and they offer them regularly in the form of a two hour lecture, as well as an online presentation and quiz. Furthermore, each member of the iGEM team was trained by our iGEM Graduate Student instructor on proper lab techniques and safety procedures.
In the US, the CDC works with the National Institutes of Health to publish national biosafety guidelines, to which our project strictly adheres.
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 integrating biosafety regulations into general design workflow would make the development of parts, devices and systems safer. To this end, design tools that help the user consider safety would be invaluable.