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iGEM Grenoble 2012

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Get deeper into safety

Information you have to read

Explanation of methods


1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:

Researcher safety

There is no immediate risk concerning the researchers’ safety in our project, as the organisms we work with (Escherichia coli) are not dangerous for humans. Nevertheless we conducted a risk analysis for a scenario, in which uncontrolled mutations in our bacteria would lead to the appearance of pathogenicity.

Public safety

To evaluate if there is any risk for public safety, the possibilities of exposure of the public to our chassis have to be studied. Currently our microorganisms are only used inside a confined laboratory environment and the probability of escape is very small. Indeed all biological waste is autoclaved before disposal, and Escherichia coli does not survive this treatment. Therefore we can estimate that public safety is not affected by our project for the moment.

Environmental safety

In the same way as for public safety, we can suppose that there is currently no risk for the environment. However, the precaution principle requires to consider that there could be potential risks. Environmental interactions are very complex to understand. Therefore, storing and communicating information on all available experimental data is essential to try and define the possible impact of our system. We therefore created the Biobrick Safety Sheet, BSS, which is intended as a standardized file accompanying each Biobrick and informing on any potential risks associated with the Biobrick.

2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts that you made this year raise any safety issues?

For the moment, we do not note any directly obvious new risk associated to our BioBricks. Even though, our Biobricks don’t have any pathogen triggering activity in their original host; potential risks can obviously not be excluded. In order to document these issues, we worked on a way to store all safety issue information in a standardized BSS (see above). It is our idea to create an online searchable catalogue based on the BSSs that accompanies each Biobrick and centralizes the safety information.

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

There is a safety department which deals with prevention in general. They were informed about our project, and gave us rules to respect as it is explained here . Moreover, we worked with them in order to study risks that can occur.
As far as rules are concerned we are informed and respect the French legislation as explained here .

4. Do you have any other ideas how to deal with safety issues that could be useful for future iGEM competitions?

In the future there will be more and more new BioBricks and devices with increasing complexity. To assess associated risks efficiently, it is crucial to standardize the safety information in a dedicated sheet or website linked to the part registry. Our safety part of the wiki suggests a way to do this. Our Human Practice part tries to improve this project by establishing collaborations with other iGEM teams. The aim of the collaborations is to collect and implement feedbacks in the database system (Biobrick Safety Safety).