Tokyo-NokoGen 2011

Department of Biotechnology and Life Science, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology





Project: EcoLion







Safety Proposal

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

- researcher safety,

- public safety, or

- environmental safety?

   Our project will not raise any issues in researcher safety, public safety and environmental safety. Our project will be carried out with E. coli laboratory strains and we do not use any infectious organisms. Our laboratory work will be carried out in the laboratories of Prof. Sode (Chief instructor), Prof. Ikebukuro (instructor), Associate Prof. Tsugawa and Assistant Prof. Ferri (Organizer). Those laboratories have a proper facility of the biosafety level 2 to handle E. coli and perform genetic engineering experiments.

  In our project, we are trying to construct the E. coli that absorbs cadmium from contaminated water. The ultimate aim of our project is to develop an E. coli machine that can be practically used to clean up cadmium-contaminated environment. However, genetically engineered organisms cannot be easily released to environment. All team members well understand this point. We are just aiming as biotechnologists at showing potential of synthetic biology for those applications that are harmful for humans and cannot be easily achieved by non-biological ways.


Q: 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,they don’t. Our BioBrick parts do not posess any safety risk for environment and researches. We will make a new BioBrick part that uptakes cadmium from environment. This part is natively expressed in a non-harmful strain of E. coli K12 and we will clone it from that strain. We are also trying to make new BioBrick parts to regulate gene expressing network. We will use those genes that already have analyzed in peer-reviewed papers. Thus that new BioBrick part will not raise any safety issues. 


Q: 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?

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

   Yes, there is. There is the committee of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and we are following its safety and ethical guidelines.


Q: 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?

   Heinrich's Law: for every 300 unsafe acts (no-injury accidents), there are 29 minor injuries and 1 major injury. We should not only focus on avoiding serious accidents; if we minimize the number of no­injury accidents we will reduce the probability of more severe accidents.

  We also suggest that all teams share any safety issues and solution timely on iGEM web site or wikis. For example, has anyone identified a hazardous situation in the lab? What was the result and how was it handled? That should prevent the occurrence of more serious hazards.


Q: Would the materials used in your project and/or your final product pose: 

- Risks to the safety and health of team members or others in the lab?

- Risks to the safety and health of the general public if released by design or accident?

- Risks to environmental quality if released by design or accident?

- Risks to security through malicious misuse by individuals, groups or states?

   Our project is not expected to raise any safety issues, with respect to the safety of the researchers or the general public. We also do not expect any environmental issues or any risks of malicious use by individuals.

   We will only use typical laboratory E. coli strains (e.g., DH5α) and the engineering experiments we plan to carry out will not introduce any genes that are related to pathogenicity or virulence, or confer any selective advantage were they to be inadvertently or intentionally (maliciously) released into the environment.

   Our laboratory work will be carried out in tthe laboratories of Prof. Sode (Chief instructor), Prof. Ikebukuro (instructor), Associate Prof. Tsugawa, and Assistant Prof. Ferri (Organizer), which have a biosafety level 2 facility to handle microorganisms and perform genetic engineering experiments. All the bacteria we handle, whether genetically modified or not, will be either stored at -80°C for future use or disposed of after autoclaving.

   Although our final product is meant to be used to clean the environment (capture cadmium from contaminated water) it is not meant to be released into the environment. The final application would likely involve adding the cells to a large chamber containing contaminated water, and after some time releasing the water (void of cadmium and bacteria).


Q:Does your institution have its own biosafety rules and if so what are they? Provide a link to them online if possible?

  Yes, our institution has own biosafety rules. This is managed by the Gene Research Center of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Research Center for Science and Technology [ (only in Japanese)]. All students have to read the provided guidelines and apply for permission to do genetic engineering before we actually start experiments. All our members had read the guidelines and signed for agreement, and we all have been permitted to carry out genetic engineering experiments.


Q: 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.

  We did not discuss our project directly with our Institutional Biosafety Committee, but we do follow their regulations and guidelines. Our instructors are monitoring our experiments closely, and they have not identified any safety issues.


Q: Will / did you receive any biosafety and/or lab training before beginning your project? If so, describe this training.

   All team members have undergone a one year undergraduate lab course, which covered all relevant safety guidelines. Furthermore, team members are also currently carrying out their own research projects in laboratories in which part of their weekly lab meetings are dedicated to reviewing and discussing various safety issues.


Q: Does your country have national biosafety regulations or guidelines? If so, provide a link to them online if possible.

   Japan’s Biosafety Regulations from the Ministery of the Environment: