Tufts University

Commitment to Safety

Tufts Synthetic Biology promotes health, safety, and environmental protection in teaching, research, and public service by working closely with Tufts Environmental Health and Safety (TEHS) to ensure all members receive necessary training. TEHS provides leadership in developing and supporting high quality programs that allow our students to protect themselves from potential health hazards they could encounter. Tufts Synthetic Biology focuses on working with biological materials in a way that is safe for both researchers and the environment. In all cases, the researcher, lecturer, or third party is consciously aware of potential hazardous effects and has all necessary knowledge to do so safely, while meeting applicable laws and regulations.

The following headings are paraphrased from the iGEM 2014 safety-compliance documents.

Local Rules and Regulations

The project was completed on the Tufts University Medford campus, overseen by the Tufts Office of Environmental Health and Safety (Tufts EH & S) and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). The biosafety guidelines of our institution can be found at the following link:

Project risks to the researcher, public, or environment

All bacterial strains used in lab are non-pathogenic E.coli. However, we have plasmids in lab encoding resistance genes for Ampicillin, Chloramphenicol, Kanamycin, Tetracycline, and Streptomycin. If our bacterial strains escaped, they could potentially transfer these resistance genes to other bacterial strains and species outside the laboratory. In order to reduce any risks associated with our project, we have employed sterile technique appropriate for a BSL-1 environment when working with our bacterial strains. Some chemicals that were handled in lab are capable of causing burns, irritation, allergic reaction, or death. Ethidium bromide and other intercalating dyes that were used in the lab have been shown to be powerful mutagens. Any potentially dangerous chemicals were handled in the fume hood using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition, lab benches were wiped down with 70% ethanol before and after work while any waste was sterilized via bleaching or autoclaving.

Species Name Risk Group Disease risk to humans? Source Use
E. coli JM109 (K12) 1 No Fuhrman Lab General cloning strain for all parts. Also used to measure biofilm formation.
E. coli XL1-Blue (K12) 1 No Endy lab Houses Litmus28i_I716104 vector (ELS-16) or Litmus28i vector (ELS-28).
E. coli MG1655 (K12) 1 No Endy lab RP437 or RP437 F+ strains used for phagemid deployment. (These were cultured, but not used any further).
E. coli M13K07 1 No Endy Lab Houses HpdO non-replicating M13 helper phage. (These were cultured, but not used any further).
E. coli ZK1056 1 No Kolter Lab Grown to measure biofilm formation.

Future project risks

Our initial concerns revolved around the risk associated with the prevention of persistent states if the vector promoting the production of the cyclic-di-GMP binding aptamer is somehow adapted from the E.coli strains being employed to the human body. However, since all strains transformed with this vector are non-pathogenic and the aptamer does not in fact prevent bacteria from entering a persistent biofilm state, no known health risks exist.

IBC Approval