As a team, we take safety very seriously. Read below for an elaboration on how we keep our lab and project as safe as we can.

Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of :
Research safety
Public safety
Environmental safety

The Rose-Hulman iGEM team has considered safety a top priority since the early stages of project development. As a result, projects introduced that could potentially be unsafe were reconsidered or avoided. The safety of our team members along with the safety concerns of those on Rose-Hulman’s campus are of the utmost importance.

This safety is preserved, by using aseptic techniques along with other techniques such as wearing proper laboratory attire, in order to maintain a safe environment. Our laboratory space is considered a Basic Biosafety Level 1 laboratory with a few characteristics of higher categories. It has controlled access, biohazard signs, biohazard waste disposal bins, and an autoclave. All participating students receive standard safety and laboratory practice training as part of their academic laboratory course-work, and in some cases the instructor will provide more specific safety instruction. Additional safety training was provided for the iGEM team members that was specific to the project procedures being used, and so that all team members could take part in the lab work. As mentioned above, proper attire is worn at all times in the laboratory which includes long pants, close toed shoes, and sleeved tops. Gloves and glasses are also worn at appropriate times.

The organisms used in our project are the common laboratory strains Saccharomyces cerevisiae (BY4741 and BY4742) and Escherichia coli (NEB5alpa), which are both considered Risk Group 1 microorganisms according to the Laboratory Biosafety Manual published by the World Health Organization. Group 1 organisms are defined as “no or low individual and community risk”, “a microorganism that is unlikely to cause human or animal disease.” Any other harmful substances, such as ethidium bromide used for polyacrylamide gels in the electrophoresis protocol, are handled with care and gloves, and are kept away to insure no misuse of these substances by others. Also proper eye protection that defends against UV rays is worn when working with any kind of UV light box. As stated above, in order to assure the safety of all involved, aseptic technique is used whenever working with these organisms and substances, and any contaminated wastes are sterilized by autoclaving or destroyed by commercial pyrolysis. All laboratory chemicals are stored, handled and used as recommended by the manufacturer, and are disposed of in accordance with national, state, and local regulations and recommendations.

The laboratory which contains these organisms and other reagents and devises is monitored to ensure that only those who are permitted in lab are in the lab. The laboratory space is kept locked at all times and not accessible by unauthorized personnel. All microbial strains, including bacteria, rendered antibiotic resistant by transformation, harbor nutritional auxotrophies or other mutations that mitigate the risk of their growing outside of the laboratory or causing disease in healthy humans or animals. Therefore, we are working toward keeping the spread of these microbial strains to a minimum. Furthermore, none of our recombinant constructs produce any known contagion or toxin.
In addition our Safety forms were approved on 9/18/13 by David Lloyd and Julie McNamara.

Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
Did you document these issues in the Registry?
How did you manage to handle the safety issue?
No known safety issues have risen due to the use of the new BioBrick parts made this year. They are both biosafety level one parts and are well contained by the microbes that harbor them. The risk of unintended transfer to any other organism is minimal.
How could other teams learn from your experience?
Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
If yes, what does your local biosafety group think about your project?
If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?
Rose-Hulman does not have a biosafety group, committee or review board but does have an Animal Care and Use Committee, which oversees animal research. Though, there was no use of animals for our project research. Safety training and laboratory waste disposal are facilitated by an Environmental Health and Safety Officer, who also serves as a resource for faculty and students, and assures that we follow national and university regulations.
Do you have any other ideas how to deal with safety issues that could be useful for future iGEM competitions? How could parts, devices, and systems be made even safer through biosafety engineering?

It is essential that before beginning a project the team has researched every possible safety hazard that could arise during the project. First, know what you will eventually be working with in lab (chemicals, strains, and so on). MSDS is great resource when researching safety hazards of chemicals. Second, research the existing literature that pertains to the envisioned project and even research some of the eventual results of the project. Previously published research can be great resource when experimenting with newer methods or a unique combination of such, or when working with unique strains.

Parts, devices, and systems could be made safer by researching the possible results that could come of their creation. Aseptic techniques are essential when working with any substance in a laboratory environment but we should also take interest in the possible ways that the part, devices, or systems can be implemented other than for the purpose that the team had set out for their own project. It is integral to expect the worst possible outcomes of your creation and assume that scientists could use the parts with a negative idea in mind. When creating parts, devices, or systems the negative outcomes should be considered, whether this is the direction that the team’s project is going or not.