Biosafety Issues of iGEM 2010 HKUST

Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?

No part in the iGEM 2010 HKUST project would raise safety issues of researchers, the public or the environment. The bacteria strains that the team work on were Escherichia coli DH10B, Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 and a non-virulent mutant strain of Staphylococcus aureus (confirmed by Health, Safety & Environmental Office of HKUST as non-virulent; commonly used in undergraduate teaching laboratories). Since Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 was originally isolated from human saliva and no virulence against human have been reported, we believe that this strain is harmless and safe during laboratory operation. In addition, gloves are worn properly in the laboratory. Pipetteman tips, plates, tubes are bleached and autoclaved after use. Other Requirements of Biological Safety Level 1 are as well followed.

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

No BioBrick made by iGEM 2010 HKUST team would raise any safety issues. The BioBricks we submit only encode non-hazardous genes.

Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? What does your local biosafety group think about your project?

Under the department of HKUST Health, Safety & Environmental Office, there is a Biosafety Committee monitoring all research activities taking place on campus. The committee oversees safety issues related to specific experimental procedures and the ethical practices involving the handling of animals.
While iGEM 2010 HKUST team are conducting the experiments, the Biosafety Committee take into account the safety issues of the highest priority. At this stage of the plasmid construction, only molecular/cellular activity of the constructed plasmids will be tested within the laboratory. They are related to chemical sensing, signal transduction observation in the Lactobacillus plantarum system. No environmental release or distribution of the reagents generated will occur. All procedures conducted in this project are performed according to the guideline stipulated in the NIH recombinant DNA regulations. The procedures thus do not impose any biosafety concern for participants of this project or the public.

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?

We suggest that iGEM participants keep clear records of reagents, bacteria and equipments that may raise any safety issues against human or environment. A detailed record not only helps researchers think carefully about the use of reagents or apparatus, but also helps trace back and check if there is any mistake before an accident happens. One way to make parts, devices and systems in iGEM safer is to construct a risk analysis system based on statistics from wet/dry lab tests. High-risk projects would then be identified and abandoned for the sake of safety.