Safety Report and Guidelines

Safety in the scientific environment is an important issue. To begin with, organisms subject to research as well as substances and chemicals used may be hazardous. Since synthetic biology uses modified organisms it is also important to consider possible effects on ecosystems. But safety is not limited to organisms and chemicals. Stress and fatigue of the researchers involved must also be taken into account when designing experiments. To address these issues we reviewed available safety protocols and regulations and wrote new protocols to fit our needs.

At the beginning of the project, Dr. Gunaratna Kuttuva Rajarao gave instructions on lab safety basics and sterile techniques. In general, we followed the safety guidelines of KTH, Royal Institute of Technology for this project.

Throughout this project, we used E.coli (TOP10, BW25113) which falls under biosafety level 1. Moreover, Chromobacterium violaceum was used as a readout strain in an experiment that falls under biosafety level 2. We performed this experiment in one of our supervisor’s lab which is suitable for biosafety level 2. It has been made sure that our lab has all the precautionary systems to carry out necessary experiments. Workstations were assigned to sub-teams as well as for different common procedures (PCR station, electrophoresis station, station for running gel). Toxic chemicals were kept in the fume hood to prevent or reduce exposure. Contaminated and non-contaminated waste were separated and sorted as plastic, glass or metal. Contaminated waste, both solid and liquid, was autoclaved to prevent contamination and then disposed of at the university facilities. Cleaning responsibilities rotated weekly and persons in charge of knowing regulations throughout the project were designated. Protocols were written for use of lab facilities, rules and responsibilities of each member of the lab and the medical procedures in case of need.

It was important to keep stress and fatigue at a minimum. To do this, general working hours were drawn up and each team member got a scheduled vacation. Good communication between team members and supervisors was important to make this work.

Another occasion where safety was discussed was the Nordic conference, arranged by Stockholm and Uppsala iGEM teams. Eight teams attended the conference. Safety issues were discussed in workshop sessions on ethics and the future of iGEM.

We believe our project to be safe. Its main future implication is use in clinical settings as a cheap, easy and specific diagnostic tool. We contemplated the idea of “kill switch” in case any undesired mutation or spread occurs in future, but did not put have time to implement it.