1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?
There are no areas of our project that would raise safety issues within researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety. While the public will often express a negative attitude toward a GMO derived product, great care was put into our project so that no antibiotics would be required to keep our yeast strains expressing the correct plasmid for gluten degradation. While it was an important safety precaution that no alcohol be consumed during our project, especially alcohol derived from our genetically modified yeast strains, a yeast geneticist exclaimed that he would be comfortable drinking our beer, “as long as we were not the one’s brewing it.”
2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
There are no safety issues that would be raised from our BioBrick parts created this year. Our Colorado State University IGEM team spent a great deal of time this summer learning proper safety techniques when utilizing synthetic biology in the laboratory. This being CSU’s first IGEM team, the experience gained will be used to make following CSU IGEM teams more efficient.
3. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
Our IGEM team met with CSU’s University Biosafety Officer, Dr. Robert P. Ellis, who was very happy to hear about our research and exclaimed that, “Using Saccharomyces cerevisiae and E.coli K-12 was exempt Host-Vector Systems as per the sections of the rDNA Guidelines.”
Safety is an important part of every project, and is a key focus of our iGEM 2012 efforts. The chief safety concerns for this summer revolve mostly around lab practices and alcohol related activities.
When working in the lab, it is paramount to follow safety procedures in order to minimize health risks of the participants directly and indirectly involved. Examples of common safety followings involve wearing gloves when dealing with hazardous chemicals, maintaining sanitized work equipment when dealing with objects that come into contact with people, and keeping chemicals and materials in their proper storage environments. It is also crucial to keep a very clean and organized lab environment in order to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
The other component of our summer project is the alcohol-related activities. These activities included (for those who are 21 and older) consumption of alcohol for taste and educational standards as they related to particular strains of yeast. The brewing of alcohol for testing and analytical purposes was also conducted. This allowed for a lab comparison of a standard yeast brew, yeast brew with brewer's Clarex, and our modified yeast strain. The most important safety feature of this part of the project is that whenever alcohol (beer) was consumed by members of the team at least 21 years of age, it was always done in a controlled environment with no option to operate a vehicle post-consumption. Consumption was also minimized for taste, so full-size beverages were rarely (if at all) consumed by any group member. Consumption was also monitored to keep the focus project-related and professional.