Team:KAIST Korea/Safety


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1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:

  • Researcher

  • For researcher safety, KAIST iGEM 2012 team follows rules of KAIST biology labs. Every researcher of our team wears latex gloves and lab coats in the lab which are sterilized frequently by spraying 70% ethanol. When treating toxic and volatile reagents, such as TEMED (the reagent used in SDS gel), we use chemical hood. Among several toxic reagents, potential carcinogens are those that are treated most carefully. To minimize the use of carcinogen, we do not use Ethidium Bromide (EtBr) in gel electrophoresis. Rather, we use RedSafeTM nucleic acid staining solution (CHEMBIO) to stain DNA samples when running gel electrophoresis. Since this reagent is said to be non-toxic, non-mutagenic, and non-carcinogenic, we believe using this reagent when making agarose gel would lessen the threat to researchers as well as to the environment. In addition, acrylamide, a component of SDS gel, is known as a potent neurotoxin hence we always wear latex gloves when preparing and running SDS PAGE. Plus, every month, every lab, including ours, undergoes safety check done by safety department of KAIST. Thus, we believe there are no safety problems with researchers during our project.

  • Public safety

  • Our project mainly deals with E. coli K-12 strain which has been assessed to be non-pathogenic by WHO. Thus, this bacterial strain cannot permanently colonize the colon of healthy humans or animals, not causing any serious diseases. In addition, both our projects need certain conditions to express desired function or metabolism. For example, our project to transform Wood-ljungdahl pathway into E. coli K-12 strain has been done in anaerobic chamber. In other words, once the bacterial strain is kept in anaerobic container or incubator, it will not cause any potential damage to the public and if the container leaks, the condition will turn into aerobic one which will stop the bacterial strain to run desired metabolism. Moreover, another project of ours deals with invertase gene which needs induction to initiate its function, thus we can tell that our projects are completely under our control. That’s why we believe there are no safety problems raised to the public due to our research.

  • Environmental safety?

  • For environmental safety, every waste generated during experiments is disposed by following policies of KAIST. All solid wastes (lab gloves, pipette tips, petri dish, falcon tubes, culture tubes, EP tubes, lab tissues etc.) are collected in a designated container while liquid wastes such as reagents or culture media are exclusively collected in different container. In case of toxic reagents such as carcinogen, we prepared another container exclusively used for these reagents. In addition, damaging wastes (razor blades, syringe needles, broken parts of flasks etc.) are separately collected and disposed. Disposal of all these wastes are done every Friday by selected company. Hence, our project does not raise any environmental biosafety issues.

2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues? If yes,

    There are no BioBrick parts that raise any safety issues in our project. We only deal with BL1 or BL2 organisms and materials which may not cause harm to the researcher, to the public, and to the environment.

3. 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?

  • As we mentioned above, KAIST has its own biosafety assessment group in its Safety Team under Department of Facility Management. They assessed our laboratory condition as well as our protocols of experiment and disposal periodically and diagnosed that our project has no potential safety issue up to this point. Also, every student of KAIST has to take an online test of Research Safety and Ethics given by this Safety Team and of course all of iGEM team members have passed this. Thus, our school Safety Team certifies our iGEM team members’ knowledge and concern about research safety.

  • If no, which specific biosafety rules or guidelines do you have to consider in your country?

  • In addition to KAIST Safety Team, there are two organizations which regulate biosafety issues in Korea. One is Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Korea National Institute of Health and the other is Korean Biological Safety Association (KOBSA). The former is a governmental organization which deals with the issues related to disease which includes pathogenic bacteria used in research. This facility points out specific bacterial strains which is highly pathogenic to the researchers and public. In addition, it provides research protocols that are verified to be biologically safe and performs inspection of the laboratories with potential safety problems. On the other hand, KOBSA, is a nongovernmental organization which is relatively new compared to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This organization educates and nurtures biosafety consultants who can assess and give solution to labs which deals with BL2 or organisms of higher level or biosafety issue. Between these two organizations, we found the safety protocols of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be relevant to this safety issues. Thus, our research protocols refer to the safety protocols from this governmental organization.

4. 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?

    For future evaluation of safety issues, we propose iGEM committee to ask participants for pictures of their lab life. We found that iGEM committee only ask us to answer their questions in words and in this way some teams may cheat on the questions since there is no requirement for proofs. Thus, we believe asking teams to admit pictures of their laboratory, such as the containers for waste disposal, experimental procedures, and other equipment they use to avoid safety problems. We also suggest requiring safety protocols of each lab and institution, which will further help iGEM judges to evaluate each team’s concerns about safety issues in easier but still objective way.