- Our project would not raise any serious concerns about researcher safety. We worked with standard strains of Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which are non-pathogenic. Lab coats, safety goggles, and biological grade gloves were used whenever manipulating bio hazardous materials. Non-pathogenic Escherichia coli is classified under biosafety level 1 and our lab uses standard decontamination procedures (ie. washing ones hands with antibacterial soap, disinfecting lab surfaces etc.) when working with this organism.
- Our project would pose no threat to public safety as the strains we worked with are non-pathogenic and public exposure to both S. cerevisiae and non-pathogenic E.coli are already widespread. Non-pathogenic E.coli is a common resident of the natural gut flora found in humans and S. cerevisiae is routinely used in industry in beer fermentation.
- The strains we worked with are commonly found throughout nature and we have not modified them in such a way that they would pose any threat to the environment.
- No safety issues were raised by any of our parts and devices. We plan on submitting several promoters, repressors, and activators for use in S. cerevisiae to the registry and various devices made using these parts. None of these parts or devices could be used in such a way that they would be harmful to the public or to the environment and malicious misuse by others is very unlikely.
- The University of Ottawa does have a Biosafety Committee that works very closely with its Office of Risk Management and the Vice President of Research to supervise and ensure all regulations are met. A lengthy description of their role can be found here: http://www.uottawa.ca/services/ehss/biocommittee.htm
Our lab falls under the first containment level, meaning that no special design and practice features are necessary as we are not working with organisms which are dangerous if ingested or airborne. The sections of the guide dealing with recombinant DNA and genetic manipulation state that most recombinant DNA work is safe, but containment level and pathogenicity should be considered. Containment level is addressed above, and none of the strains we worked with were pathogenic. Therefore, we did not need to discuss our project with them.
All lab members are required to take both a Biosafety course and a Lab safety course prior to getting their access card for the lab. Each course consists of a full day of lecture outlining risks and necessary precautionary measures followed by a take home exam that is marked by the lecturer. Upon passing the exam lab members received certificates to verify that they had passed and could work in the lab.
In addition, the Government of Canada has issued a lengthy set of guidelines pertaining to biosafety and they can be found here: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/lbg-ldmbl-04/index-eng.php
- In the human practice section of our project two years ago, we documented some safety changes that we thought were necessary. Briefly, the self-regulated structure which currently exists should be replaced by a structure where a small team of experts looks at any hazards which could arise from each project. They would conduct this before the jamboree, raising questions about foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences. This would not be unduly time-consuming because most projects are straightforward biotechnology projects; it is only a few which raise real safety concerns (more precisely, the proposed application raises safety concerns). It is important to add a feature like this to the safety repertoire of iGEM. The full text of the report can be found here: http://www.ipm-int.org/boxmode/pdf/Ethics.pdf