Team:TU Darmstadt/Safety



The maintaining of biological safety in the laboratory while carrying out a project is a key capability for iGEM participation. The following answers to the original iGEM safety questions reflect how the TU Darmstadt team has been dealing with the issue of lab safety in accordance with the iGEM guidelines.

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

  • researcher safety
  • environmental safety

After thorough examination we herewith state that carrying out this iGEM project does not bring about any safety issues for researcher, public or environment. All team members are skilled in laboratory work and are briefed regularly on potential health risks and hazards coming from the chemicals and equipment used. Every person working in the lab has to undergo training on the rules of good laboratory practice (GLP (in German)) through the department safety officer. Storage, labeling and handling of chemicals strictly follows H&P guidelines. Every laboratory team member has been well trained in practical lab work, either through university education or apprenticeship. Safety gear must be worn at all times. In order to minimize potential health risks, the laboratory is always kept spotlessly clean. After each procedure involving either microorganisms or genetic material potentially contaminated surfaces are sterilized. Access control to the laboratory is strictly enforced and people who have not undergone prior instruction in good laboratory practice are not given access.

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?

To the best of our knowledge, none of our BioBrick parts are known to cause any safety issues. In our labs we work with E. coli, S. cerevisiae and C. testosteroni. They all are classified as non-harmful and categorized in biosecurity stage S1 after the GenTSV (in Germany).

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?

The TU Darmstadt has its own safety department, which is responsible for all safety issues concerning work and environment. Every laboratory at the TUD has its own safety officer who ensures that all rules, regulations and procedures as mandated by government and the national biosafety system are properly implemented. The safety officers responsible for the labs in which the TUD team has conducted iGEM work, namely Harald Kolmar and Heribert Warzecha, have been familiar with the project and have given the team permission to carry out the respective work.

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?

The TUD team has been trying very hard to raise awareness for lab safety protocol among all the team members. The responsibility to implement good practice guidelines has not only been left to the safety officers, but the whole team has been actively involved in making the laboratory a safe place. Every time before carrying out experimental work, the whole group is re-briefed on safety concerns and good practices; subsequent group discussion makes sure that everyone is informed about the what, why and how of the work to be done. Fighting human weaknesses, especially inattentiveness during mind-numbing routine work, has become a key issue in the team. Therefore, a sort of informal quality control system has been implemented, identifying and highlighting occurrences of lab misconduct, like the failure of sterilizing hands after work. Offenders are punished by having their name written prominently on the “wall of shame” (actually a whiteboard in the lab) and by having to pay a fine into the corresponding “box of shame”. The money collected therein will be used to cater a barbeque party after completion of the iGEM competition. The worst offender will be convicted to schlep the grill equipment to the party’s site.

For more information feel free to browse through the links featured in iGEM safety section.