University of Pennsylvania iGEM


We believe that our final project would not harbor any major safety issues to the research, public or the environment. The light-producing and light-sensing components of our project are simply applications of existing natural processes in a new setting.

What is your chassis organism?

We work with strains of E.Coli: NEB10, BL21, SY104 and HNS BW25113 Dhns::kan. We do not intend to plan experiments with any other organisms aside from our chassis.

What risks does your project pose at the laboratory stage? What actions are you taking to reduce those risks?

The strains of E.Coli that comprise our light-based communication system are highly conserved and pose minor risks when handled carefully. ATCC has assigned all strains a biosafety level of 1. In order to prevent contamination of any samples in the lab, including mammalian cell cultures, we dispose of all E. coli by bleaching cultures and then disposing of equipment in designated biohazard bins. All team members strictly adhere to the following safety procedures when performing experiments: 


1. All personnel wash their hands after they handle viable materials, after removing gloves, and before leaving the lab.

2. Eating and drinking in the lab is not permitted. Food is stored outside the work area in cabinets or refrigerators..

3. Policies for the safe handling of sharps are instituted.

4. Work surfaces are decontaminated at least once a day and after any spill.

5. All cultures, stocks and other wastes are decontaminated before disposal by an approved method such as autoclaving.

6. Rubber gloves and protective eye-wear are worn at all times.


How would your project be used in the real world?

We are building a system of light-based communication between cell populations. This will allow for future research teams to take advantage of the orthogonality and spatiotemporal control of light as a medium for cell-to-cell communication. Additionally, we have shown that communication is possible across boundaries, so it is possible to promote talk between cells that grow in different environments or have different antibiotic resistances.

What risks might your project pose, if it were fully developed into a real product that real people could use? What future work might you do to reduce those risks?

We believe that the light-producing and light-sensing BioBricks do not raise any known safety issues to research, the public, or the environment. The system would most likely be utilized in a lab environment in order to promote communication across strains and environments. Therefore, general lab safety procedures must be followed in utilizing our communication system. Additionally, to guarantee public and environmental safety, researchers must properly dispose of bio-hazardous experimental waste to prevent undesirable spread of genes or toxicity into the environment.