For a long time, biological engineering has been questioned and misconceived by the general public for "trying to play the role of God", which triggered concerns that genetic modification would have a negative impact on the environment and public health. However, if operating under the strict safety control, biology will only be good for mankind, rather than evil. In order to eliminate the public misunderstanding of, we are committed to controlling the biosafety risks in our project, by which we want to promote the concept of “safe bio-engineering” to the public. This year, we abided by the experimental safety standards at all respects, and fully complied with the national biosafety regulations and iGEM biosafety policies.
Please refer to our safety form for more details.
Prelab Safety Training
Before the experiment, we invited teachers in charge of the laboratory management of our school to carry out a safety training for all members. Everyone was required to be acquaint with the laboratory regulations and basic experimental skills, and only after passing the examination can they enter the laboratory for experiments.
Every week, we arranged students on duty to check the laboratory safety, including the placement of instruments, the storage of drugs and other potential safety hazards. Meanwhile, the teachers also inspected the lab irregularly, providing rectification opinions and supervising implementation accordingly.
Figure 1. Our lab
The Stop Anticodon in Target DNA
This year, our project was about Cas12a detection of antibiotic-related substances. In our project, we needed to use antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) for testing our device. However, some AEGs could be dangerous if leaked. To eliminate this possibility, we specially designed a part called “Standard detection cassette for Cas activity”. We put only a small piece from original genes in to the cassette, instead of using the whole coding sequence for testing. Although only a small part of the gene was chosen as target, we also introduced the stop anticodon (which will be transcribed into UAG) at the upstream of protospacers, further preventing the unwanted transformation and unwanted expression of the ARGs. For more details, please refer to Contribution.
In order to avoid the risks of product leakage and make it more user-friendly, we specially designed a cell-free system, which doesn’t contain living cells. Cell components are extracted and reserved in sealed containers, thus refraining users from close contact. Users only need to add the sample, then the detection can be carried out automatically, reducing the possibility of reagent leakage.
What’s more, one part of our product (CESAR-II) was designed to be used in hospitals, operated by experienced doctors. And the other part (CESAR-I) was designed to be used by government inspectors of antibiotic residues. So, our main users should have enough knowledges and experiences in dealing with biosafety issues. We will also note the alert on the final product that who is allowed to use our product and others should not touch when processing.
Another thing is about the wastes. Because our product is designed to detect ARGs or antibiotic residues in patients’ samples or environmental samples, respectively. And those samples are under strict waste dealing regulations. Those regulations are pretty thorough and detailed. So, our recommendation is to strictly follow the current rules when dealing with the wastes.