Team:NJAU China/Safety



As outstanding progress has been made after all these years in the field of synthetic biology, an increasing number of scientists have been devoted to the creation of artificial bio-system even a life. While just like every coin owning two sides, this novel technique could also bring calamity if it were mis-used or beyond control. As iGEMers, it is our duty to reflect more about the safety to ensure the potential negative influence would hardly hinder human’s daily life and jeopardize environment. We organized the iGEM and Synthetic biology workshop and exhibition among several universities and high scholl, Questionnaire Survey and also dissctions in out team, so that we can get a better understand of the significance of safety and how to slove it would make both we major people and other people satisfied.

Potential Risks

To humans, as one species of symbiotic bacteria in human’s gut, if engineered Escherichia Coli enter the gut of the mankind due to the incorrect operation, the disorder of normal metabolism may get induced.

To the environment, the culture and some kind of reagents may cause contamination to water and soil. In addition, inserted genes may get leaked and insert into other creatures’ genome, which may cause unknown risks.

Our project contains a facilitating module in our project which makes use of CRISPRi system to repress certain gene. If this novel repression tools were mis-used by either evil individuals or criminal groups and were targeted on house-keeping genes of human, severe harm would been done to human’s prosperity.

Safe Operations

All in all, it is necessary for us iGEMers participating in wet lab to receive special training over operation and basic information about the lab. Distinguished trainings were carried out every term in our experiment classes. Most operations of instruments, some kind of the dangerous included, have been taught during classes, and so does the usage of some kind of hazardous reagents such as EB. Moreover, waste disposal and protection wearing such as gloves and lab coats were introduced and required during the classes. Besides, some unknown molecular biological experiments were taught and trained by Instructors and Advisors. After safety lectures held by our Instructor, a test was arranged, and only those people who have surpassed certain score could gain access to the laboratory.

Security Module

To prevent the potential risks above, the best method still lies in controlling bacteria maintaining certain quantity and certain period of time artificially.

As a characteristic of iGEM, designers are encouraged to build up certain module or structure to prevent the gene contamination and mis-use by someone else. As a trend, an increasing number of teams choose to design a suicide module, ensuring microbes to suicide under certain condition. But actually as the mutation existing anywhere and anytime, it is so swift for bacteria to struggle against the shackle set by human regardless of the low chance of mutating. Basic to their superpower is the enormous figure and the high reproduction rate. As a result, being too fragile, the suicide module tends to become invalid in a quite short time.

Considering the possibility above, we gave up the plan of creating the gene module to control the life of bacteria. Instead we focused on the physical structure which seemed to be a better choice for all of us for its high stability. In our project we used filter band to prevent the microbe fleeing into the environment.

The “CAMBOY” we design is an equipment which has E.coli and its liquid culture medium inside. Polymer material is covered to keep E.coli from leaking out and let Cu2+ in. At the bottom of this equipment is a heater which is controlled by a microcontroller and on top of this equipment is a lid with a temperature sensor which is also linked to microcontroller. This system keeps the temperature constant to provide a good environment for growth of E.coli.

Click for more details of Model!


Our laboratory has partner relationship with certain company. All toxic reagents and other hazardous materials would be taken away and then handled safely so no harm would leave either in the lab or out of the lab.

We discussed our project and safety/security concerned topic with Jingkui Li who is the chairman of laboratory department in the academy of sciences. He required observing the rules in laboratory over the waste disposal, utilizing toxic molecular reagents carefully and the correct operations of instruments owning potential risks such as centrifuge, microwave oven and other electric operations. He required us to take measures to promise the safety to both the laboratory and environment.