Team:NAIT Edmonton/Safety

Team NAIT 2015

Lab Safety

iGEM teams follow a high standard of safe and responsible biological engineering. Because we are members of the synthetic biology community, we are responsible for living up to the trust placed in us to design, build, and share biological devices safely.

Safety Training

Our institution is committed to providing a safe work environment. As such, the NAIT Biosafety program ensures that potentially biohazardous materials used for our research are used only by students and staff that have had appropriate training. All the NAIT laboratories are compliant to and certified by regulations for working with biohazardous materials. NAIT follows the regulations identified in the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act (HPTA).

Based on the Canadian Biosafety Standards and Guidelines 1st edition, NAIT only has laboratories that can handle Risk Level Group 1 and 2 pathogens and toxins. Standard operating procedures are developed for all labs and facilities within NAIT that handles said pathogens and toxins. Additionally, all staff and students who enter appropriate labs, and handle or dispose of these pathogens undergo a biosafety training session. Appropriate training records are also maintained.

Risks for our Project

Risks to the Safety and Health of Team Members or Others in Lab

In our lab, we use Escherichia coli as our miniature factories to produce our desired proteins. According to the Canadian Biosafety Standards and Guidelines, E. coli is classified as RG2 meaning that it is a pathogen that is very unlikely to cause human disease or pose a serious hazard to laboratory workers. However, some bacteria may be opportunistic pathogens and may cause harm to immunocompromised individuals. For E. coli there are effective treatments and preventative measures available.

During agarose gel electrophoresis, we use ethidium bromide to stain and visualize the bands of DNA. Ethidium bromide is a known mutagen and contact with skin may cause genetic defects. Additionally, in SDS PAGE, TEMED is used which is harmful if inhaled or ingested by the laboratory technician. Many of our reagents must be handled carefully as to prevent skin or eye contact.

Risks to the Safety and Health of the General Public or Environment

The novel proteins we are creating have never been studied and thus we are not sure about how they will affect our environment. There is no direct contact of our strains of E. coli with the environment outside the laboratory and therefore, our project provides no remarkable risk to the general public. Any equipment that is exposed to bacteria is sterilized properly either by an autoclave or bactericides.

In staining, our silver solutions (a heavy metal) have the potential to bioaccumulate. Heavy metals can enter our water supply if not disposed of properly.

Measures to Reduce Risk

Reducing Risk for Team Members

To reduce the risk of contamination or exposure to E. coli, our team works in a certified BioSafety Cabinet. Additionally, we take appropriate precautions when handling the organisms including wearing proper PPE (see figures below). We always wear our PPE when handling our reagents or conducting any experiments.


Safety Glasses

Lab Coat

Reducing Risk for the General Public and Environment

The health of the general public and the environment is very important to our team. Although the novel proteins we are constructing have unknown functions and effects, our entire project requires us to denature and essentially de-activate them. Therefore, we are certain that the denatured proteins will not have any downstream effects on our environment.

When disposing our reagents after an experiment, we follow the guidelines specified in NAIT’s Bio Safety program. Specifically, our silver solutions are placed into heavy metal disposal buckets and disposed of carefully as to not affect our environment