University of Illinois iGEM Team
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Who We Are
Amanda Chang
"A watched gel never runs"
Illiniois iGEM Lab Safety

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

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

Yes. As student researchers on the iGEM team, we are exposed to all of the basic risks involved in performing experiments in a laboratory environment. This includes working with open flames, carcinogenic reagents, and genetically modified micro-organisms. We are also working with a non-infectious strain of E.coli. Specific components of our project do not introduce additional need for safety concern.

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

Yes. Our project also entails that we modify our host organism to be resistant to a variety of antibiotics. We currently have E.coli strains resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, kanamycin, and chloramphenicol. Safety concerns over antibiotic-resistant strains of microbes is a legitimate one as exposure to these organisms compromises public health. As such, we use the utmost care when dealing with these organisms to ensure they are contained and will not be a threat to public safety. By following stringent safety guidelines and training team members to properly dispose of biohazardous waste, we believe that we’ve appropriately addressed this public safety concern.

c. Risks to environmental quality if released by design or accident?

Yes. In the laboratory, student researchers work with reagents that could potentially be harmful to the environment. To avoid exposing the environment to these dangerous chemicals, we take extra precaution to follow laboratory protocol in the disposal of materials.

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

No. Currently, our research has not produced any part or device that could be used maliciously by an individual, group, or state. Our system does not make use of parts that are associated with pathogenicity, infectivity, or toxicity.

2. If your response to any of the questions above is yes:

a. Explain how you addressed these issues in project design and while conducting laboratory work.

b. Describe and document safety, security, health and/or environmental issues as you submit your parts to the Registry.

Please see explanations above.

3. Under what biosafety provisions will / do you operate?

a. Does your institution have its own biosafety rules and if so what are they?

The Division of Research Safety (DRS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign implements and oversees safety programs and regulations dealing with the risk involved in handling biological, chemical, and radiological hazards all across campus, and reports to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

b. 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. Provide a link to them online if possible.

The Biological Safety section of the DRS includes the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). The IBC oversees the safe handling and disposal of biological materials, including recombinant DNA. New research projects need to be registered and approved through the IBC. This includes approving all personnel involved in the project, as well as a project description.

Our iGEM team has submitted a project proposal to the IBC at our institution. They have reviewed our proposal, and it has been approved! Some concerns they raised included the bleach-surface contact time when disinfecting our work area, as well as the nature of the recombinant DNA we are working with. Due to their feedback, our team has taken more care when disinfecting with bleach, as well as filling out the appropriate paperwork needed to work with rDNA.

Read more about the IBC at our institution here:

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

All researchers are required to pass a General Laboratory Safety exam before starting their work. In addition, members of our team have also acquired additional certification from the Biological Safety section of the DRS, as well as the Institute of Genomic Biology itself, where we have our lab space.

Visit the General Laboratory Safety Training page offered by the DRS here:

Visit the Safety Training page offered by the Biological Safety Section of the DRS here: (Members of our team were required to pass the test titled “Understanding Biosafety.”)

Visit the Safety Training page of Institute for Genomic Biology here: (Members of our team were required to pass the test titled “For Lab Workers Doing Research”)

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

Please see the National Institute of Health (NIH) Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA molecules:

A link to the NIH official website:

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