Team:Monash Australia/Safety


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

In terms of public and environmental safety there are no issues which could arise due to the level of containment adhered to. The project has been given a classification of PC1 level containment however we are based in a PC2 containment laboratory, therefore superseding the requirements as per local legislation Safety to researcher is low risk, with PC2 containment adhered to microbicidal infection is minimal. The only risk we have identified is the flammable nature of ethylene which is generally in a gases state therefore if ignition is to occur an explosion may occur. We have however are not expecting such a large build up of ethylene, and have/will be limiting the amount of ethylene produced by only culturing a smaller amount of bacteria. The laboratory also has sensors and alarms to dangerous levels of explosive atmosphere and is equipped with fume hood and during the stage of producing ethylene; the culture will be setup to run inside the fume hood in case of release or escape of ethylene gas.


  • Could there be an unplanned event or series of events involving your project, resulting in either death, injury, occupational illness, death, damage to equipment or property, or damage to the environment? How likely is that going to happen?

Yes, however with the appropriate controls in place the risk is low.

  • Does your project require the exposure or release of the engineered organism to people or the environment (e.g. as medicine, for bioremediation)?



  • Could your device, when working properly, represent a hazard to people or the environment?


  • Is your engineered organism infectious? Does it produce a toxic product? Does it interfere with human physiology or the environment?

Currently cyanide is a waste/by-product. It is not infectious, and should not interfere with human physiology. The environment should have minimal risk as the biobrick causes the microbe to be methionine auxotrophic, therefore not viable for the microbe in the environment without supplementation of methionine.

  • What would happen if one or several bioparts change their function or stop working as intended (e.g. through mutation)? How would the whole device or system change its properties and what unintended effects would result thereof?

It should just stop working as it should become Methionine auxotrophic

  • What unintended effects could you foresee after your engineered organism is released to the environment?

Most likely the plasmid will not be selectively produced, thus removing it from the system

  • Try to think outside the box, what is the absolute worst case scenario for human health or the environment, that you could imagine.

Microbes which pick up these plasmids somehow do not become methionine auxotrophic, producing lots of ethylene, Plants will be growing due to excess ethylene hormone and fruit ripening too soon, depending on where the microbes are located, small pockets of ethylene gas can build up and then explosion risk can occur. The bacteria infect humans, receiving all the nutrients required as well as being antibiotic resistant; can cause potential pathology in humans.

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

  • 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?

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?

Our (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) biosaftey officer, Associate Professor Martin Stone, has approved the project and has informed us the project is classified under exempted dealings through Monash University

  • If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?

Under Australian legislation, the project is again classified under exempted dealings . The legislation requires the project to be undertaken within PC1 level, which we are superseding with PC2 containment within the Buckle Lab

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?