Team:Macquarie Australia/Safety



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

The safety and health of the team

Due to the nature of laboratory work there is always a certain level of risk involved when undertaking a research project. All possible precautions regarding possible safety issues were addressed prior to the beginning of the experimental work for our iGEM project. Team members of the project have undergone a number of safety inductions, in particular a laboratory training course which adheres to the standard university occupational health and safety training requirements. Moreover, the bacterial strains used in this project were considered non-hazardous and non-infectious. Culture volumes were also kept to a minimum to minimise the risk of spread and transformant bacteria were selected via antibiotic resistance . This antibiotic resistance is commonly used in laboratories (such as ampicillin, chlorampheniol and kanamycin) and does not interfere with potential clinical treatment. All team members were supervised in the laboratory when using lab equipment or carrying out lab procedures. Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was employed including lab coats, gloves, appropriate foot wear and safety goggles.

The safety of the general public by design or accident

To ensure the safety of the general public no materials used for the project were exposed to the public or the environment. Also as none of the organisms used are pathogenic, they do not pose a risk to human health even if accidentally released.

Environmental quality if released by design or accident

To ensure that none of the products were potentially hazardous to the environment all materials and biological wastes were sterilized in an autoclave prior to disposal. In addition, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) was completed for all chemicals and reagents used and disposed of according to safety regulations.

2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues? If yes were these documented with the registry and how were these concerns managed?

The Bacteriophytochrome gene is a pigment-binding protein while the Heme Oxygenase gene is a metabolic enzyme, whereas both have no associated toxic or pathogenic risk factors. The E.coli strains used are classified as ‘Exempt Dealings’ under the Gene Technology Act, as they are either E.coli K12 or B derived (BL21 (DE3)) and are not considered to be pathogenic or hazardous. Due to this the safety concerns did not have to be documented with the parts registry and no additional precautions needed to be taken.

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

Macquarie University has a biosafety committee which ensures that the university complies with the requirements of the Australian Government legislation: Gene Technology Act, 2000. The iGem project was granted an ‘Exempt Dealing’ (REF:5201001087EX) for the expression of proteins involved in biosynthesis of photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic organisms. More information on the legislations involved with the Australian Government's Gene Technology Regulator can be found here.

4. Do you have any other ideas on 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?

Our research team was briefed before conducting any laboratory work regarding general safety protocol. As the iGem competition is a way of collaborating and sharing information, the jamboree could also be used as a medium through which safety protocols specifically designed for the iGem project can be discussed and presented. This would be especially effective due to the international nature of the competition, thus allowing for the collaboration of safety protocols that are implements in laboratories across the world.