Safety in iGEM

The implications of an intentional or accidental release of genetically modified organisms into the enviroment have been at the center of the discussion on genetic engineering for more than forty years [1] . And while the knowledge on the mechanism of gene regulation and the technology has developed rapidly in these decades, the basic principle guiding safety considerations in the lab work remained unchanged: the containment of transgenic organisms and possibly hazardous substances has to be considered in the design of every laboratory and every experiment. This stance is reflected in the tight legal regulations on biotechnology in most countries, of course including Germany.

Our team wanted to do justice to the controversial dicussion and reservations of the general public in Germany concerning GMOs. We therefore went the extra way: The organism we contrived is equipped with a suicide mechanism using the pezT gene. This will ensure the containment of the bacteria even if they leave the controlled enviroment of the lab.

Additionally we have put emphasis on the development of software for risk assessment, management and controlling in biological laboratories in cooperation with the Wüpper Management Consulting GmbH.

Thirdly we discussed our project, genetic engineering in general and the legal boundaries of scientists and companies in a symposium with students from all faculties. The stimulating exchange of ideas and viewpoints allowed us to appreciate and understand the perspectives of students from different fields.

  1. Berg, P., et al., Summary statement of the Asilomar conference on recombinant DNA molecules. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1975. 72(6): p. 1981-4.

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