Team:Aberdeen Scotland/Safety


Team:Aberdeen Scotland/Safety -

Safety Guidelines

We understand that safety is very important and so we made sure that we kept our lab work and genetic manipulations to high and agreed standards.

Safety, including genetic manipulation safety was of paramount importance for the whole team during the summer iGEM research period. All the procedures we carried out in the lab were guided by separate risk assessment documents that covered; biochemical reagent preparation; separation of nucleic acids on gels; visualisation of gels using UV light; use of the autoclave for sterilisation; use of the microwave to melt solid agar and gels. We spent the whole of week 1 of our 10 weeks in the lab working with our Instructors in the lab to ensure all our working practices were safe.

As important as general lab safety was genetic manipulation safety. iGEM Headquarters required us and all teams to liaise with their safety advisor throughout the project. However, before we could begin work on anything involving recombinant DNA at Aberdeen, we had first had to obtain permission from our local Advisory Committee on Genetic Manipulation (ACGM) to carry out the project. This involved (i) informal discussions with our ACGM chair to explain that the combination of genes we were intending to use could not exhibit any hazardous emergent properties, and that the genes we intending to manipulate were not inherently dangerous, and (ii) a formal application to the committee (linked, below) to set out the nature of the project and explain how its potential for causing harm through genetic manipulation was extremely low.

One problem we encountered was that the ACGM committee only meets quarterly, therefore any permissions we sought before the project began had to cover all directions the project might take! This was a serious iGEM disadvantage, since these projects can often take unexpected directions, and we may have wanted to manipulate new pieces of DNA not covered in the original ACGM application - this would have been impossible at Aberdeen under our ACGM regime. We therefore tried to make the ACGM application as broad as possible, covering all possible genes, promoters and plasmids we might conceivably use. We reflected that as synthetic biology develops in our and other Universities, ACGM oversight of projects will need to become more flexible, while still maintaining adequate safety oversight.

You can find the specific details of what measures we took to ensure our work is safe for society, the environment and us in the document below.

ACGM Genetic Permissions Application form [University of Aberdeen ACGM permission granted, June 2014]