Human Practices - Safety
The understanding of safety guidelines, the reflection on related issues as well as the respect and proper implementation of those practices is tremendously important for us. During the process of our work, we therefore continuously discussed and reasoned about potential ethical and safety problems which could arise from our project. We always strictly follow safety practices guidelines in the lab and respect all the rules and regulations. But this is not enough. This page represents our reflection on an issue which is neglected all too often. We use the iGEM safety guidelines  and its key questions to document our thoughts on the subject and their implementation:
Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of:
- Risks to the safety and health of team members or others in the lab
Our project ideas and ways of realizing them do not raise any special issues of chemical or biological safety.
In biolab work the use of certain toxic or carcinogenic chemicals is indispensable. Acetaldehyde, which is used as a corepressor in our expression system, is a toxic and carcinogenic substance with a boiling point of only 20.2 °C. To prevent vaporization, all work with acetaldehyde is done in a cold room at 4 °C with lab equipment and organic substances precooled to -20 °C. Appropriate protective clothing, gloves and glasses are always worn, when working with dangerous chemicals.
E. coli strains BW27783 , DH5-alpha and JM101 are used for our experiments. Both strains are neither pathogenic nor infective nor toxic. Likewise our included constructs do not cause any risk. All lab work is carried out in a S1 lab with conventional safety standards. Normal safety precautions such as wearing gloves, glasses and a lab coat to protect ourselves are implemented. No bacteria are released into the environment. All material contaminated with bacteria is autoclaved at 120°C. Harmful chemicals are collected and disposed of, separately.
- Risks to the safety and health of the general public and Environmental quality if released by design or accident
Our system is isolated and has no direct contact with the environment outside the lab. Thus it should not pose a risk to public or environment by design. Nevertheless there is always a risk of releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment, especially in case of an accident. Transfer of genetic material between the GMOs and other bacteria can always take place.
- Risks to security through malicious misuse by individuals, groups or states?
The system we designed is composed of a sensor which gives a certain output. In our design fluorescent proteins (gfp and mcherry) act as outputs of the system. These proteins do not cause any security issues. Still the output of the sensor could be changed in order to cause damage to the environment and humans. Thus one can never exclude the malicious misuse of a biological sensor.
Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues? If yes,
- did you document these issues in the Registry?
- how did you manage to handle the safety issue?
- How could other teams learn from your experience?
No, the new BioBrick parts we are making do not raise any safety issues.
Under what biosafety provisions will / do you operate?
- Does your institution have its own biosafety rules and if so what are they? Provide a link to them online if possible.
The Safety, Security, Health and Environmental Protection (SSHE) unit  of ETH Zurich provides institution-wide general- and bio-safety guidelines for associated laboratories. For class I biological laboratories, the relevant documents are the Safety and Waste Disposal Manual  and the Biosafety-Concept (Biosicherheitskonzept) . Work at the laboratories at the D-BSSE department of ETH Zurich - and thus also in our lab - is carried out according to above rules.
- Does your institution have an Institutional Biosafety Committee or equivalent group? If yes, have you discussed your project with them? Describe any concerns or changes that were made based on this review.
The safety consultant  of the ETH Zurich D-BSSE department stated that there is no general safety issue with our project and forwarded us to Professor Sven Panke for getting his opinion on the safety of our biological system. He did not find any reason for concern in our design.
- Will / did you receive any biosafety and/or lab training before beginning your project? If so, describe this training.
All people working in the lab had a special training on chemical and biological safety in the lab and a fire prevention course in previous practical courses. Also everyone attended lectures on lab safety. But there was no special biosaftey or lab training for iGEM.
- Does your country have national biosafety regulations or guidelines? If so, provide a link to them online if possible.
In particular for our project we consulted the "Freisetzungsverordnung" (FrSV)  and the "Einschliessungsverordnung" (ESV)  in the Swiss Legislature and checked that our project does not raise any safety issues. An overview of further legislature concerning biotechnology in Switzerland in general and biosafety more specifically is available at .
The Swiss public authorities and the Federal Council consult the Swiss Expert Committee for Biosafety SECB  on matters of biosafety. The committee provides advice on the drafting of laws, ordinances, guidelines, recommendations as well as enforcement of these.
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?
The release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the environment has to be avoided under all circumstances. Thus strains have to be engineered in an appropriate way. Further lab practices need to be optimized and adapted to recent progress done in science. The generation of knowledge and the responsible and sustainable application of it are crucial for the safety of biologically engineered systems.
More immediately, we updated the iGEM 2011 Safety page  to include the legal bases biotechnology overview  for reference by future Swiss iGEM teams. It is maintained and updated to include the most current legislature concerning biotechnology safety- and otherwise by the Federal Office for Environment (FOEN) .
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