1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:
2. 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?
- researcher safety? No
- public safety? No
- environmental safety? No
3. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? Yes
- Our project does not raise any safety issues.
4. 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?
- If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project? They think it's safe
- If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country? N/A
- Have a stricter distribution policy for the more risky parts.
Our strain of E. Coli is not pathogenic, so no epidemic disease will occur as a result of our project. Additionally, it does not pose a threat to public health, as no toxins, chemicals, or any dangerous substances are being produced. Furthermore, our project does not serve as a stepping stone for potential bioweapons.
In any type of genetic engineering, there is always the hidden danger of horizontal gene transfer between the synthetic organism and other microbes co-existing with the synthetic organism. Thus, the possibility of horizontal gene transfer must be taken into consideration if and when the synthetic E. Coli enters the real world.
If our strain of E. Coli ever gets leaked outside of the lab, there would be no effect on the surrounding environment because it would not grow well in soil in the first place. In order to grow it effectively in lab, we had to grow it on nutrient-rich broth or agar plates and incubate them in a warm room overnight.
If our E. Coli were able to survive in the outdoors, no effect will be made on the ecosystem. Microbes that receive our E. Coli’s plasmids will not gain any selective advantage over other microbes, since our plasmids were designed to create a visual pattern. They may, however, receive some slight antibiotic resistance due to the fact that our plasmids have antibiotic resistance for use as selective markers in the lab, but this is not significant enough to be considered a selective advantage.
Should our E. Coli pick up pathogenic genes from other microbes, our E. Coli would be just as harmful as if it was a normal E. Coli. We did not give our E. Coli any selective advantages, other than the few antibiotic resistance genes as selective markers for use in the lab.
We, the researchers, were safe because we worked in a clean and well-maintained laboratory setting. Everything, including but not limited to samples, solutions, cabinets, were properly labeled. Safe laboratory procedures were also practiced; gloves were worn, glassware contaminated with cells/genes was bleached prior to being washed, biotechnological waste was autoclaved, etc. Furthermore, we even took a laboratory safety course ourselves to learn about the special safety codes and whatnot.
Building the spatial oscillator was safe experience as well. After all, we are working with a non-virulent strain of E. Coli. In fact, E. Coli is a specimen that is naturally found in the gut. Nonetheless, we did not work with any toxic substances nor did we work in a radioactive environment.
The new parts created will not cause any issues. First of all, our parts are made from parts already in the registry. This means that our composite parts will not cause harm or issues to the public. Furthermore, malfunctioning of the parts will not result in anything harmful. If the parts malfunction, our E. Coli will either exhibit an unexpected visual pattern or nothing at all.
When we test to see if our construct works or not, we will see whether our parts work or not with the use of RFP expression. This is a perfectly safe process.
Our project will not raise any ethical issues, unless the issue is about the idea of synthetic biology itself. If anything, we strongly believe that people would be fascinated!