iGEM UZurich 2020


Safe Work in the Laboratory

At the beginning, before the students started their laboratory work, all those who were to work in the laboratory during the project were given an introduction by the Lab Manager, Lena Stransfeld.
When the team planned to start an experiment that they had never performed before, the experiment was always explained, demonstrated and overseen by a supervisor.
The state-of-the-art equipment available to the people in the lab was in perfect condition and was used in accordance with the lab's regulations. This included the wearing of gloves, lab coats and protective goggles whenever circumstances required, as well as the safe disposal of biological waste according to our laboratory’s standards.
All treated organisms are classified in risk group 1, which makes it easier to comply with the safety measures. The classification of the organisms and their handling in the laboratory was a decisive criterion in the design of our project.

Special measures due to COVID-19

2020 was a challenging year for all of us and the pandemic certainly did not simplify working in a lab. Precautions and limitations accompanied our journey from beginning until the end. Masks were mandatory when entering the laboratory. Further precautions include limitations in space, meaning that the maximum of iGEM students allowed to work in the lab at a time was reduced to two. We implemented a lab crew rotation, so every wetlab team member would get roughly the same time in the lab while still complying with the personnel restrictions.

Safe usage of our system

Our project from the start was designed to be safe for handling. It uses exclusively risk group 1 components, including our two chassis: Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
Though our molecular components pose no risk to human or animal safety, both our chassis are free living organisms and escape into the environment is a concern, as it would release a GMO organism that could establish itself in the wild. Our modification grants no additional benefits to survival, but also includes no detriment to wild survival, such as a killswitch. Since our system is designed to be handled by experts, escape can be prevented by proper handling. As a sample can be added directly to the test tube with our system, there is no path for escape as it remains in a closed container at all times, as long as it is handled properly. After use, both the contaminated water sample and our organism can be easily disposed of by disinfection or autoclaving.