Please use this page to answer the safety questions posed on the safety page.
1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?
All projects are being conducted in lab-safe strains of E. coli. All researchers have been trained in applicable lab safety to insure that no bacteria are inadvertently released into the environment. The researchers have also been trained in proper handling of chemicals, which is required due to the work with alkanes which requires use of chemicals not normally used in a molecular biology lab. In both the Celiac's disease and alkane production projects, the actual organisms being engineered are intended to be maintained in lab conditions ( cultures, bioreactors, etc.). The active ingredient in our Celiac's disease treatment would be used as a purified protein, like many current protein therapeutics, and is consistant with current FDA guidelines. Extraction of alkanes from our alkane producing E. coli would not result in any live bacterial carryover, and even if bacteria were to be present in the extraction, they would not be able to survive in the high alkane environment of gasoline.
2. Do any of the new BioBrick parts (or devices) that you made this year raise any safety issues?
None of the parts we made this year raise any particular safety issues that we can foresee. All of our major parts are found in non-pathogenic bacterial species( cyanobacteria for our alkane production, Alicyclobacillus sendaiensis for our gluten destruction project). None of our new parts would provide any foreseeable selective advantage, and these engineered bacteria would not be better able to compete with native bacteria. Thus, these parts would not increase bacterial survival in the case of accidental release.
3. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?
The University of Washington has an Environmental Health and Safety(EHS) committee that deals with biosafety and other safety and health issues. All procedures and materials used are standard, the EHS has no specific concerns. You can visit the EHS at http://www.ehs.washington.edu
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?
One biosafety measure that would be helpful for many teams would be a standardized bacterial strain with knockout(s) that would require that media be supplemented with a relatively cheap chemical for bacterial growth to occur. This would greatly reduce any risks of accidental release, and virtually eliminate the chances of bacterial growth outside of controled lab environments. The main difficulty with this approach would be finding a knockout that would not have an impact on growth in controlled laboratory media. This would have an added effect of increasing comparability between projects, as tests could be done in standardized strains.