Introduction – German Safety Regulations

In Germany, working with genetically modified organisms is regulated by the genetic engineering law (Deutsches Gentechnikgesetz, GenTG). The primary purpose of these laws and regulations is the protection of people and the environment from potential threats.

Biosafety vs. Biosecurity

"Biosafety protects people from germs – biosecurity protects germs from people" [chabsa]


When discussing safe work on laboratories, it is important to understand the difference between biosafety and biosecurity. Biosafety generally refers to the protection of people inside and outside of the lab, animals and the environment. The rules of conduct for biosafety are derived from the World Health Organization (WHO) on techniques for use in laboratories. According to the WHO biosafety is “the containment principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to prevent unintentional exposure to pathogens and toxins, or their accidental release” [chabsa]. According to this principle, biosafety is about taking precautions to avoid harm from happening. While working on our project, we were highly determined never to pose any threats to ourselves or the public. All experiments were strictly contained within the lab and we adhered to laboratory code of conducts at all times. Furthermore, all experiments were thoroughly planned and modeled before conducted in the lab in order to anticipate problems. Transportation of strains etc. between labs was always performed in S1 approved safety boxes.


The term biosecurity refers to the protection of biological constructs and inventions from misuse. According to the World Health Organization laboratory biosecurity describes “the protections, control and accountability for valuable biological materials within laboratories, in order to prevent their unauthorized access, loss, theft, misuse or diversion or intentional release” [chabsa].

Work Environment – Lab Safety

In order to be able to work safely in the lab and to adhere to all rules and regulations, every member received extensive safety inductions before commencing their work. First of all, we received an introduction to the various safety levels laboratories can be classified into. There are four internationally recognized safety levels:

Safety level one (S1) represents the lowest safety level and refers to work with agents that do not pose a considerable threat to people working in the lab or the environment [2]. Since there is no high risk of infections or disease, research can be performed on standard open benches and no use of special containment equipment is required. Furthermore, laboratories that are classified S1 are not isolated from the general building. All work we conducted during the iGEM competition could be done in an S1 laboratory.

Naturally, our safety induction also included general codes of conduct and standard microbiology practices, which are indispensable in order to create a safe work environment [labmanager]. These rules include:

  • no mouth pipetting, mechanical pipetting only
  • careful and safe handling of sharp equipment
  • immediate decontamination of spills
  • immediate decontamination of all surfaces when work is finished
  • decontamination of waste by autoclaving
  • posting of “Biohazard” signs whenever infectious substances are dealt with

Finally, in order to ensure complete protection, one has to pay attention to personal hygiene. Hand washing is required after each completed job and before leaving the lab. Furthermore, eating, drinking, smoking and applying makeup or equivalent cosmetic products are prohibited.

Personal Protection Equipment

While carrying out our work in the lab, personal protection equipment (PPE) had to be worn at all times. Since all of our work was carried out in a S1 classified lab, our PPE consisted of eye protection, a lab coat consisting of 100 % cotton, sturdy footwear and gloves. Furthermore, jewelry was taken off before entering the lab and long hair was tied back or tucked into the lab coat.

Personal safety training

We received the above mentioned safety inductions in every laboratory we worked in. They were carried out by safety advisors, Postdocs who received special safety induction training, or the lab managers themselves.

  • Institute for Plant and Cell Biotechnology: Prof. Dr. Markus Pauly (Head of Institute), Fabian Stritt (PhD student)
  • Institute for Microbiology: Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge (Head of Institute)
  • Institute for Synthetic Biology: Prof. Dr. Matias Zurbriggen (Head of Institute)

Disposal of Biological Waste

Following the safety inductions, we applied everything we learned to safely dispose of our waste. All lab ware we used (culture dishes, petri dishes, centrifuge tools, pipettes and tips, etc.) was non-infectious so that we could dispose of them in special plastic bags within the lab. These bags were autoclaved by a technical assistant of the lab. Liquid waste was collected in special containers that were later autoclaved and disposed by a technical assistant. Sharps waste, like razor blades were disposed in special sharps waste containers to prevent injuries.

Organisms and parts used in our project


Species Name Strain Genotype Risk group Disease risk Source
E.coli K-12 TOPTEN F- mcrA Δ(mrr-hsdRMSmcrBC)φ80lacZΔM15 ΔlacX74 recA1 araD139 Δ(araleu)7697 galU galK rpsL endA1 nupG P3: Kan R; AmpR; (am) Tet; R (am) 1 no Grant et al. 1990
S.cerevisiae BY4742 MATα his3Δ1 leu2Δ0 lys2Δ0 ura3Δ0 1 no Brachmann et al. 1998


BioBrick Name Plasmid
BBa_K2271066 mRuby-ePTS1 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271062 Pex13-mTurqoise pSB1C3
BBa_K2271060 Snc1 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271103 Pex15 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271104 Pex13 membrane anchor pSB1C3
BBa_K2271105 Pex5 variant R15 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271106 PTS1 variant P3 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271107 Pex5 variant 19 comp pSB1C3
BBa_K2271067 Pex5 variant R19 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271014 VioA pSB1C3
BBa_K2271017 VioE pSB1C3
BBa_K2271115 ADH alcohol dehydrogenase pSB1C3
BBa_K2271116 ADH PTS1 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271118 ValS pSB1C3
BBa_K2271124 ValS PTS1 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271021 pH sensitive green flourescent protein for yeast expression pSB1C3
BBa_K2271023 reduction-oxidation sensitive green fluorescent protein for yeast expression pSB1C3
BBa_K2271024 reduction-oxidation sensitive green flourescent protein with pts1 for Yeast expression pSB1C3
BBa_K2271026 roGFP2 with pts1 and Pex13-mRuby fusion construct pSB1C3
PTS1 variant P* pSB1C3
BBa_K2271141 PEX13 mRuby comp pSB1C3
BBa_K2271142 ePTS pSB1C3
BBa_K2271143 Pex3 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271144 Pex26 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271145 Bacteriorhodopsin pSB1C3
BBa_K2271013 Pex34p with Copper induecable promotor pSB1C3
BBa_K2271010 Pex34p with ScCCW12 promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271008 Pex34-mTurquoise with Galactose inducible promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271007 Pex34p-mTurquoise with ScPAB1 promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271006 Pex34p-mTurquoise with ScCCW12 promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271003 Pex11-mVenus with galactose-inducible promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271002 Pex11-mVenus with ScPAB1 promoter pSB1C3
BBa_K2271000 Pex11 pSB1C3
BBa_K2271005 Pex34 coding sequence pSB1C3
BBa_K2271011 Pex34 with ScPAB1 promoter no tag pSB1C3
BBa_K2271012 Pex34 with galactose inducible promoter pSB1C3