Safety Q&A

Q1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:

  • researcher safety,
  • public safety, or:
  • environmental safety?

Answer: The 2012 iGEM team of SJTU has inherited and carried forward the rigorous scientific spirit of our predecessors and we also take the safety issues pretty seriously. As unparalleled as our idea is, the realization process is basically by means of regular means of synthetic-biological research. For researcher safety, we use agents and culture that are most generally applied and exclude any infectious host organisms. All the team members have been properly trained before the project was officially commenced. Researchers are all required to wear protective gears such as glasses, masks, lab coats and double-layered gloves while conducting experiments of numerous kinds. As to the concern of public or environmental safety, all the wastes produced during the experiments will be disposed in time strictly according to the rules of the laboratory. We attach even more importance on the issue of the transfer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as it is illegal to release GMOs into the environment. Due to the efforts and consideration we have made, we can confidently say, there is absolutely no safety issues arising from our project.

Q2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues? If yes,

  • did you document these issues in the Registry?
  • how did you manage to handle the safety issue?
  • how could other teams learn from your experience?

Answer: We believe the new BioBrick parts we made this year do not raise any safety issues. First of all, the laboratory where we conduct the experiments was approved to include GMOs in research. Our parts in the project are mostly synthesized by either commercial companies or PCR from natural organisms as well as the officially distributed parts(VioABCE and VioABDE). Although some parts have been genetically modified to express based on our needs, all the parts are constructed and preserved under several mechanisms in the host organism that can prevent the release of GMOs into the environment. Besides, our design and parts do not, as far as we know, increase the antibiotic resistance or produce hazardous effect.

Q3. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?

  • If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?
  • If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?

Answer: There is no local bio-safety group, committee or review board in our school or institution, yet we do strictly obey the policies and regulations regarding bio-safety in our country. Biosafety Regulation on Pathogenic Microbes and Safety Regulation on Genetic Engineering have been used chiefly as our reference.

Q4. 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?

Answer: Just as its name implies, synthetic biology means synthesis of life, involving both the reading and writing of genes. Thus a series of issues concerning bioethics, biosecurity, biosafety are bound to arise and stir huge controversy. To address such problems, we suggest not only scientific methods including suicide genes be used in the research, but the public awareness also need to be emphasized. The skyrocketing development of synthetic biology should not conflict with biosafety and the well-being of people in this society.