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Project Safety

Researcher safety

Every member of our 2013 XMU-China iGEM team was trained by our graduate students on exact experimental skills and some laboratory regulations, especially knowledge on safety, including theoretical and practical parts about general lab safety, biosafety and hazardous chemical spill or exposure response. What's more, every member's experiments performing was corrected by our team leader for a period of time, which improves our safety consciousness.

In addition, every member had to read experimental protocol carefully before the experiment. When doing experiments, everyone is demanded to wear gloves to avoid contacting with poisonous chemicals and bacteria.

Laboratory safety

The materials used in our project pose no safety or health concerns to members in the laboratory. In our experiments we have only two kinds of harmful reagents, both used in SDS-PAGE:

TEMED(N,N,N',N'-Tetramethylethylenediamine): harmful to neural system

Acrylamide: strongly carcinogenic

Some special care and notices were taken to aviod potential harm to the lab and public. All toxic chemicals are stored at special places separately. Procedures which demanded the protection from contaminations and toxicity are performed on a clean bench. Every toxic reagents would be put back to their original places immediately.

The listed organisms we use (or from which we use parts) are all part of the basic biosafety level 1:

E. coli (K 12)     DH5α
E. coli (K 12)     MG1655
E. coli (B)     BL21
E. coli (B)     BL21 (DE3)
These four kinds of strains are all non-virulent and are commonly used in microbiological experiments. What's more, none of the new BioBrick parts that we constructed this year raise any safety issues.

Public safety

Considering that public panic would set off if our biological materials leaked from laboratory, we really cared about the public safety. All lab-gown and gloves should be put off before members leaving the laboratory. All biological materials and genetic samples, including materials and equipment which was physically contacted with biological samples shouldn't be carried out of laboratory without bleached by autoclave before discarded or reused. Every toxic reagents would be put back to their original places immediately. All these regulations are for the sake of avoiding biological and chemical contamination from laboratory to the public.

What's more, any untrained person couldn't have access to our iGEM laboratory. If necessary, for example, we invited some high school students to visit our genetic engineering laboratory, these visitors have to wear safety clothes which implies long pants and gloves. If biological samples, chemicals or some other kinds of biological materials should be transferred to another lab in order to continue an subsequent experiment or do some further characterization, these things were loaded in special containers. For example, once we had to analyze a SDS-PAGE gel using MALDI-MS/MS at Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is very far away from our campus. The samples were centrifugal tube sealed with sealing film. These could improve public safety and avoid potential damage to the general public.

Environmental safety

We only used nonpathogenic Escherichia. Coli strains (DH5α, MG1655 ,BL21 and BL21(DE3)) as host bacteria, which all are biosafety level 1 organisms in our project. However, these E. Coli strains (DH5α, MG1655 ,BL21 and BL21(DE3)) can survive departing from the laboratory. If leaked by accident, our biobricks and genetic materials would do harm to the environment owing to the resistance of E. Coli to a certain antibiotic even three various antibotics including three different plasmids. To avoid this potential biological pollution to environment, we gathered all culture fluid and culture medium with bacteria and we processed them together to ensure that none of them leaked from our laboratory through sewer and dustbin. We handled all the biological materials, wastes and equipment strictly following the BSL-1 requirements. All these things that have physically contacted with biological samples were bleached by autoclave before being discarded or reused.

In a word, we've taken safety, including researchers safety, lab safety and public safety into accounts. The rules and safety standards we've consulted are pervasive in Xiamen University as well as in China.

Biosafety Standards and Institutions

Xiamen University has its own biosafety rules that are regulated by the Ministry of Environment Protection, P.R. China and our institution. We carried out our experiments and evaluated bio-safety issues in our iGEM project strictly following the Chinese Pathogenic Microbiology Laboratory.

Link to the Nation Biosafety Office:

National Biosafety Office

Link to the regulations:

Biosafety regulation on pathogenic microbes Bio-safety Regulations, 2004, P.R. China.

Biosafety in outreach


In our outreach, in other words, human practice, we designed a special prize for these high school students who were the top ten on our scoring list. These sets of cards-we called them BioBang-were inspired by War Within Three Kingdoms, which are very popular in China. There are abundant role-relationship and mutual promotion and restraint between every card, just like Bang! in America. The BioBang is themed with synthetic biology, including genetic engineering experiments, biological materials and equipment. We've also assimilated knowledge of biosafety into these set of cards in order to popularize knowledge of biosafety in lab, public and environment. One example of them related to biosafety is shown as left.


When a freshman or freshwoman comes to our College of Chemisty and Chemical Engineering in Xiamen University ,in the first day, there is a story about "C3H3" for them ,which was advocated by Prof. Jiaxi Lu, a famous Chinese quantum chemist. "C3H3" consists of three words, Clear Head, Clever Hand and Clean Habit. We think it is very useful when we do synthetic biological experiments, let alone talking about safety in genetic engineering.

Firstly, before doing a genetic engineering experiment, you should keep your head clear. Concretely speaking, you need to find out the safety level of biological materials used in your experiment, including microorganisms, reagents and your constructed gene circuits. Keep every tiny experimental detail in your mind. This can help you avoid many potential safety hazards in your experiment.

In addition, to make your hands clever means to perform a experiment skillfully. For example, when making a gel for SDS-PAGE, it is necessary to use acrylamide, which has strong carcinogenicity. So you have to pay much attention when mixing it and pouring the mixture into a mold to agglomerate.

The last but not the least important, a clean habit is totally useful not only in your lab but also in your life. Imaging a mass, dirty and disorder lab, maybe some tattered gloves or broken flasks which have been contacted with highly toxic reagents are hidden below the experiment rig. Many risks would arise if there's unclean experimental habit. A clean habit is more than a combination of clear head and clever hand. It's a kind of decorous attitude to your experiments and a neat working atmosphere you create by yourself. A clean and good habit can improve your whole life.

So this is our "C3H3". We sincerely hope this proposal can improve safety in synthetic biology and genetic engineering.

Furthermore, we have another reasonable suggestion that every iGEM team should make a data table or survey results about public biosafety or laboratory safety and security of the projects. Every team can submit a survey report attached with questionnaire and analyzing data to the iGEM safety committee. More details are to be discussed.

Safety Form

Our safety form supplies here .

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