Safety, security and responsible conduct
iGEM's Rules of Conduct require teams to be safe, secure, and responsible in their biological engineering. Because we are members of the synthetic biology community, we are responsible for living up to the trust placed in us to design, build, and share biological devices.
Working safely and securely is a core element of responsible research and innovation. iGEM teams are expected to consider potential risks to ourselves, our colleagues communities, and the environment. Teams are also expected to manage any risks, including accidents (through biosafety procedures and practices) and deliberate misuse (through dual-use and biosecurity procedures and practices). (iGEM 2020)
In this part, we updated and revised our risk assessments. We have handed out the safety form promptly to clarify that our labs are Safety Level A laboratories and students are hardly exposed to biological risks. Our project was designed to detect SARS-CoV-2, thus we have used the specialized sequence from the N gene of coronavirus. We submitted the Checking Form timely and guaranteed that the work we did was safe and harmless.
We will further explicate our assessments and how and why we implemented biosafety and biosecurity requirements in our project in the following paragraphs.
Our lab follows Chinese legislation about risk 1 biosafety laboratories and is also provided with two autoclaves (respectively for sterilization for waste and future usage), a ventilator, and several laminar flow cabinets with UV sterilization. Besides, our instructors have provided us with a document listing every detail we should pay attention to when we are in the lab.
Our lab has also considered every possibility for us to perform safer experiments, such as using Gel Red, 4S Green Plus nucleic acid dye to reduce toxicity, and equipping Blue Light Gel Imager for our skin and eye protection, etc.
All students, including iGEMers, are trying our best to follow all the protocols for better experimental reproducibility.
Besides, our labs strictly follow the rules of garbage classification—household waste and experimental waste are separated, and all biowaste containing bacteria are sterilized before disposal. As you can see in the following photos, experimental waste such as tips, syringes, gloves, and plates are collected separately for pollution treatment and waste recycling.
Although our project is trying to detect dangerous SARS-COV-2, the sequence currently used for verification, and the D-E-T-ector itself, are all safe and reliable. We selected a specialized sequence with no biological function as our detection target. All the ssDNA we used were ordered from Sangon Biotech, and our magnetic beads were ordered from Beijing Dk Nanotechnology Co.LTD. Besides, the cas9 nickase we used was ordered from NEB.
We didn't use any living things throughout the project, which prevented possible biological leaks that might have occurred. Though it was inevitable to use nucleic acid dyes because we used the PAGE to obtain our experimental results, we strictly performed safe operation in the process. We also paid much attention to safety specifications when using electrochemical workstations, electrophoresis tanks, and other devices that require power. In the process of our experiment, we had at least one instructor in the attachment to ensure that we could respond to an emergency quickly.