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A Killswitch for Increased Security

The OSCAR component of our project aims to remediate toxins in the oil sands tailings ponds using synthetic bacteria. Despite our belief that the metabolic burden of this system on our bacteria would not allow them to outcompete any native organisms, as we detail in our interviews page, our dialogue with experts really emphasized the need to design such a system so as to minimize any escape of our bacteria regardless. As such, we designed a closed biosensor and a closed bioreactor which incorporated built-in structural design safety mechanisms. In order to implement one more level of control, which industry felt was needed, we wanted an additional genetic-based containment mechanism to kill our bacteria upon escape from our system, thereby lessening the possibility of OSCAR spreading beyond the bioreactor or horizontally transferring genes to other organisms. We implemented novel ribo-killswitch parts. These contain riboswitch regulatory elements and exo/endonuclease kill genes.

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