What is biosafety ?

Biosafety is a group of rules that regulates the way genetically modified organisms or pathogen agents have to be manipulated. The aim is to protect people, their surroundings and environment.

At the beginning of iGEM project, we all received a little formation on how behaving in a lab : all the safety recommendation, where to throw away what, when to use specific protection and what kind of solutions are dangerous for example. The following rules were applied in the lab:


  • Whenever we had to throw cells cultures in the water tank, we first added a special disinfectant (the same used by all the people in the lab) and let it stand for approximately one hour. Only then did we dispose of the cultures. Disinfectant : Environ Vesphene se
  • For all other bio contaminated products, we used a special trash bin that was diposed every night by a special facility of the faculty.
  • We used gloves for all the expermiments.
  • Gloves were not worn outside the lab.

Chemical safety

  • Harmful chemicals were kept in special storage places according to there chemical propreties (acid/base/organic solvent...). All toxic and volatile chemicals were handled under a fume hood.
  • All material that has been in contact with EtBr (used for agarose gels staining) were diposed of in a special bin. People using that kind of material were wearing nitrile gloves to reinforce there protection to this strong mutating agent.

Our project's safety issues

In this project, we deal with molecules of risk Class 1. We use E. Coli bacteria, which is a very well known and characterized bacteria, and the plasmid we used are of bacterial origin and are well characterized. The promoter used are also well characterized. We don't do any purification of proteins, or use any pathogenic transgene for example, so there are no specific risks around our project.

EPFL Biosafety

The following rules are taken from the Biosafety website of the EPFL.

It represents all the safety rules that should be followed when manipulating genetically modified organisms) or pathogen agents so as to protect people, their surroundings and environment.

Different kinds of measures have to be taken into account:

  • Technical: containment, security place, filters,...
  • Organizational: work procedures, work description, responsibilities, ...
  • Administrative: authorizations, notifications, ...
  • Personal: formation, individual protection equipment, medical tests, ...
  • Monitoring: Analysis, dissemination controls, ...

Risk classes are attributed to activities involving GMOs, implying different work procedures, protection equipments and levels of containment in order to both guarantee the quality of the work and minimize the exposition of people and environment.

The risks classes are the following :

- Class 1: GMOs or pathogen agents that are generally speaking harmless for humans.

- Class 2: GMOs or pathogen agents that may cause a person to be affected by a disease but whose propagation through the community is pretty improbable.

- Class 3: GMOs or pathogen agents that may induce a serious disease to men but for which an efficient treatment is available.

- Class 4: GMOs or pathogen agents that induce serious diseases in humans. They are often propagated via air routes and no efficient vaccines nor therapy exist to cure their effects.

As said before, we dealt with Class 1 risk, where GMOs or pathogen agents are harmless for humans.

iGEM questions

1. Would any of your project ideas raise safety issues in terms of: researcher safety, public safety, or environmental safety?


2. Is there a local biosafety group, committee, or review board at your institution?

Yes, there is biosafety group.

3. What does your local biosafety group think about your project?

We went to see Stéphane Karlen, the coordinator of biosafety of the Life Sciences faculty. He asked us a few question and summarized the following :

We are using E. coli.

We are using two plasmids and inducible promotors totally characterized.

Neither the receptor organisms nor the vector cause a problem.

The risk group of our project is 1.

For all these reasons, our project doesn't cause any particular risk issue.

4. Do any of the new BioBrick parts that you made this year raise any safety issues?If yes, did you document these issues in the Registry?



Our project doesn't present any particular risk.