Since the ultimate goal of our project is a novel disease bio-detector that could be used in daily life, we attached special importance to the safety issue of our project. We answered the safety questions by addressing several points on safety issues of our project concerning researchers,public, environment and Biobricks.

  • Researcher
  • Public
  • Environmental
  • BioBrick
  • Biosafety at our University

Researcher Safety

There is no immediate risk concerning the researchers’ safety in our project, as we only work with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) and the Bacteria Escherichia coli DH5a. Both of the two organisms are widely used in synthetic biology and considered as Level 1 Biosafety Containment agent. Despite the already low risks, proper safety procedures are taken; all experiments are being conducted in BSL 1 laboratories, and sterile techniques are followed in addition to the use of gloves and lab coats and other personal protection. The lab we worked in has following rules to make sure student researchers’ safety:

● Use and do not lend the personal entrance card to the laboratory

● Do not eat and drink in the laboratory

● Wear Nitrile gloves, closed toe shoes and lab coats

● Chemicals possessing potential risks should be kept and used in special areas

There are a number of lab reagents we required for our project that might be harmful on contact. To reduce the risk of these chemicals, chemical safety sheets were written to inform researchers to work with them safely. As for the UV risk, researchers are required to wear personal protective equipment, such as UV protective goggles.

Public Safety

The common yeast is harmless to the public and environment in most cases. The risk of getting infected by S. cerevisiae is scant, as most people have already developed immunity from contacting with yeast over their lifetimes. The genes that we are implementing in our yeast are unlikely to provide a selective advantage for the microorganisms.

The ultimate goal of our project is a novel portable disease bio-detector that could be used in daily life. Therefore, we attached special importance to the public safety issue of our project. S. cerevisiae is widely used in synthetic biology and is commonly used in baking and brewing.

To guide users to use the product safely, we wrote Users’ Manual to show how to use the product:

User's Manual of Yeast Doctor

User's Manual of Yeast Doctor plus

Environmental safety

In the same way as for public safety, we can suppose that there is currently no risk for the environment. Two strains of yeast we used lacks functional pathways for histidine and leucin respectively making our yeast unlikely to survive in the wild Moreover, the genetically modified yeast were made into dry powders and sealed in package to avoid direct contact with water and nutrients from the environment. In this manner, the yeasts on the test paper can hardly posse activity before using.

BioBrick Safety

For now, we don’t think any directly new risk was raised by our BioBrick. The BioBrick doesn’t possess potential pathogenic and pharmacological activity or produce toxins.

Biosafety At Our University

We do have a local biosafety group in the microbiology lab, which had trained our team of distinct aspects before starting lab work, including lab safety, waste treatment, potential safety issues in the project design and etc. During the first few weeks of experiments, the biosafety group supervised our operation and ensured that no research or environment safety problems would occur. Also, we had some supervisors/professors from School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University to examine our lab work. Undergraduate students are required to take the Lab Operation Safety Test before working in the lab, and the school also arranged a lecture about working safely in labs for our students.

During our work in the lab, we noticed that our university were not doing well in waste sorting. Few labs separate biohazard from general waste and autoclaved biohazard before discarding. As an outreach of our safety part, we promote the separation of biohazard by designing a sticker written biohazard and distributed them to labs in our university to elevate students’ awareness of waste sorting. Many labs stick the stickers on their waste bin and started to treat biohazard separately.