The Cambridge 2009 iGEM team took safety considerations seriously throughout our project. One of our supervisors, Jim Ajioka, is a Safety Officer in the Department of Pathology, so we were able to discuss with him the potential impact of our ideas. Additionally, we followed Cambridge University safety regulations in the lab.

We assessed the risks involved with our work in the lab to ensure we adhered to the safety guidelines set by the Cambridge University School of Biological Sciences Biological Safety Committee. We completed a “COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) Risk Assessement of a Project involving Biological Agents” form, in which we assessed our work to consider both dangerous pathogens and genetically modified organisms.

Dangerous Pathogens

The biological agents we worked with are a derivative of E. coli K-12. While E. coli can be a dangerous pathogen, E. coli K-12 is multiply disabled. Because it maintains several genetic deletions for nutritional genes, it will not survive outside the lab and will not compete with normal human or other animal flora. It is an ADCP Hazard Group 1 organism and can be used under UK designation containment level 1 regulations – in summary, use of good microbiological practice, disinfectants (70% ethanol, TriGene), and known disposal routes (autoclaving); suitable protection (lab coats and gloves); and limited lab access.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Our project came under the umbrella of a Genetic Manipulation Project for Cloning in E. coli in Dr. Jim Haseloff’s lab. We worked with non-mobilizable plasmids, and the genes we worked with produce products with known properties. We assessed that there is no significant hazard regarding the bioavailability of our pigment products.

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