Safety Questions

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

  1. Researcher safety,
    • In order to work in the lab cartain precautions always need to be undertaken to ensure the safety of the researchers. These include the use of gloves and labcoats to protect from chemicals which are irritant and the use of masks when using powdered media

      With regard to our project those were in particular the use for toxic chemicals, including:

    • Ampicillin is a broad-spectrum bacteriostatic antibiotic which is effective against many Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including most anaerobic organisms. It can sometimes result in reactions that range in severity from a rash (in the case of patients that may unwittingly have mononucleosis) to potentially lethal allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis
    • Ethidium Bromide is a powerful carcinogen that was used during gel electrophoresis. Gloves were used to protect from ethidium bromide.
    • Chemicals that have been demonstrated to be toxic or are classed as irritants were not handled by the team at critical concentrations, but rather diluted for us by more experienced members of staff, like our supervisors. This minimised the risk to the all people working in the lab and ensured correct safety practices were taken during the most precarious steps. These substances were stored in locked cupboards and handed to us diluted in aliquots of constant volumes.
    • Pseudomonas strain was used by us and since Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that can cause disease in animals, including humans, therefore proper precautions were undertaken to prevent infection.
    • UV light is used to view EtBr. stained DNA.This can lead to UV exposure especially when DNA bands are excised from the gel. For this reason a blue light box and safety goggles with light filters were used for these steps to prevent damage to the retina as well as our skin.

    • Generally good laboratory practices were adhered to, including the wearing lab coats and protective gloves when in the laboratory. Furthermore all waste, including live bacteria and toxics, were disposed of by trained members of staff according to sound safety protocols.

  • public safety
    • In order to minimize the risk our project poses to public safety most of our genes were taken from non-pathogenic microbes. Several safety precautions were taken :
    • We quickly decided to design our project in a way that would avoid harm to humans and the environment and therefore we chose a strain of microbe that was found in the natural conditions of the rice fields.
    • Genes: As laid out early by our human practices work show, we aimed to minimize the use of genes from pathogenic organisms. We therefore used only a single gene from Pseudomonas. All of our other genes were used from non-pathogenic microbes.

    • Overall this system should not be able to cause any harm to the public under any foreseeable circumstances. Our project idea was modified several times during its development in order to fulfill all the safety guide lines we had agreed on in our human practices work shop as well as our panel discussion with experts from many fields, including Synthetic Biology and Ethics.

    • environmental safety? We chose our strains that are easily found in the wild environment of the rice fields so that the impact to the already existing flora and fauna is minimized. Environmental safety was inherent in our design so that no risk should arise of our project. We prepared our plan in order to make Synthetic Biology more environment friendly.

Environmental Safety
Our project poses no identifiable threat to environmental safety. The microbes used in our project are not able to survive outside the lab, and all cells were disposed of safely after disinfection with 10% bleach. Bio-hazardous and flammable chemicals were disposed of by following the proper regulations. No gloves were allowed to leave the laboratory, so chemical and biological hazards were restricted to the laboratory.

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?
No. All bio-bricks made are according to the safety guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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?

Yes, our project safety is governed by the Committee on Bio Safety, Department of Biotech/Bioinformatics, JUIT. We have presented our project proposal to the same committee as mentioned above , and after a review of our materials and procedures, the biosafety office has approved our project and deemed our practices consistent with biosafety regulations.
  • Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues? If yes,
    • No, are parts do not raise any safety issues.

  • Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
    • The biotechnology department in JUIT adequately addresses the biosafety risks associated with modern biotechnology as well as awareness generation on the biosafety aspects and regulations, through an Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC) comprising of expert faculty members from institution and DBT appointed nominees. Extension activities, a technical society “RIBOSE” (RESONANCE IN BIOTECHNOLOGISTS AND ENGINEERS) and an e-newsletter spread awareness about the science of Biotechnology. Ecogroup ‘Green-Volunteers’ work towards various environmental issues. One of our advisors, Dr. N.Mehendru, is the biosafety officer for the Department of Pathology. We were able to discuss the safety of our work with him at every stage of the project. We also ensured we complied with the India's biosafety regulations, taking advice from Dr. N.Mahendru.

  • 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?

Antibiotic resistance is a public health problem of increasing magnitude, and finding effective solutions to address this problem is a critical focus of CDC activities.
1. Decreasing the susceptibility of recombinant cells to antibiotics through Antibiotic resistance genes proves to be a high risk to the environment.
2. Our new idea is to use Sac B gene insertion as a tool for selecting transformed mutants. We have designed a new plasmid, that does not contain antibiotic resistant gene. Instead it has Sac B whose expression in the presence of sucrose is lethal to Methylococcus capsulatus. Our results imply that the sacB gene can be used as a positive selection system in Methylococcus capsulatus.
Does your country have national biosafety regulations or guidelines? If so, provide a link to them online if possible. The link national biosafety regulations in India [].