Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?
Parts, ideas, and strains of model organisms in the 2011 HKUST iGEM team will not pose any threat to safety of researchers, public or environment. All biological parts, when functioning correctly, should not produce toxins or harmful chemicals to other organisms. Model organisms used include Escherichia coli DH10b, BW25113 and BW25141. They are non-virulent strains and are common in microbiology laboratories for basic biology studies. [Top]
Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
The new BioBrick parts that are currently under design encode non-hazardous genes and should be harmless, with only one exception. That BioBrick part might slightly raise the resistance of Escherichia coli to certain antibiotics, but the effect will be limited to the bacteria cultured for testing experiments. The part encodes a multi-efflux pump that mainly transports aminoglycosides out of the cytosol. Yet we believe it does not have significant impact on the general safety of the environment since, in theory, it would only raise the minimum inhibition concentration (MIC) of the host organism by no more than 10 µg/ml.
To avoid any potential hazards, Biological Safety Level 1 requirements are strictly followed. Biological wastes and all equipment that have physical contacts with biological samples are bleached (optional) and autoclaved before disposal or reuse. [Top]
Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution? What does your local biosafety group think about your project?
The Biosafety Committee of HKUST Health, Safety & Environmental Office keeps track of all safety regulations and practices in the campus. They address all issues arisen from current experimental procedures taking place and keeps an eye on ethical practices that involves the handling of genetically modified cells and animals, the latter of which does not apply in this project, since animal study will not be included in the project described here.
Procedures currently involved in iGEM 2011 HKUST team mainly concern molecular cloning and constructing reporter systems for antibiotics resistance. Constructs and parts will NOT be distributed or released to the environment. Guidelines from NIH recombinant DNA regulations are followed as closely as possible. Therefore details of our project had not, and will not evolve into any public safety issues that need to be addressed. [Top]
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?
We propose to include a suicide system inside all BioBrick plasmid backbones. Using toxin-antitoxin systems coupled with the appropriate promoters, we can trigger self-destruction in any cell that has taken up the plasmid using particular inducers or by subjecting undesired hosts to a slightly varied physical environment. This can safeguard against undesired gain of resistance or gain of advantage by the manipulated organism, or contaminant species that have obtained the plasmid through horizontal gene transfer. [Top]
Experiments and Results