Team:Monash Australia/Safety



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 exempted dealings, which have guidelines on safety of equivalence to PC1 level containment however we are based in a PC2 laboratory (research within the Buckle lab require PC2), 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 which we will be using 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 has a requirement for lactose (or lactose substitute) and Ascorbic acid. If the biobrick was to escape to the environment, it would ultimately be removed from the system as there is no selective pressure to maintain the antibiotic resistance encoded on the biobrick.

  • 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?

The system requires lactose and ascorbic acid to function, if there is a constitutive activation due to mutation, the system is still limited to its environmental resources. If there is mutation to stop function, then the biobrick will cease to produce ethylene.

  • 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.

In the most extreme case microbes which pick up these plasmids somehow find a rich source of nutrients can produce lots of ethylene affecting; Plants which acting as a hormone cause inappropriate signaling, can cause death of plants, unnatural growth, premature ripening of fruit. Depending on where the microbes are located, small pockets of ethylene gas can build up and then explosion risk can occur. The bacteria, e. coli K-12 are unlikely to infect humans, and will not cause any potential pathology in humans Source.

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

Apart from the mentioned above, our BioBrick parts or devices do not have any saftey concerns.

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, and the Biosafey Committee has approved the project and has informed us the project is classified under exempted dealings through Monash University, which the committee has noted we only require to follow PC1 containment as a guideline. (Link to Monash Guidelines)

  • 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 containment as a guideline, which we are superseding with PC2 containment within the Buckle Lab. (Link to Legislation)

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?

Engineer within the standard part common to all biobricks an 'kill/sucide' switch, in case where organism escapes and causes saftey concern