One of the main components of our project this year focused on the safety considerations that we needed to take into account for a cell-free system. For the education component of our human practices, we developed a biosafety module to teach students about proper laboratory habits. For the biosecurity component, we discovered a potential misuse of our cell-free system in regards to genetic recoding and gaps that exist within the screening process of synthesis orders that DNA synthesis companies utilize. We addressed this issue by developing software tools to help mitigate this risk.
University Laboratory Guidelines
All wet lab experiments are hosted at the University of Lethbridge Chemistry and Biochemistry department. The laboratory itself is a Containment Level One which “requires no special design features beyond those suitable for a well-designed and functional laboratory. Containment is achieved through the use of practices normally employed in a basic microbiology laboratory.” - Public Health Agency of Canada
Other precautions are taken to further provide a safe work environment for team members. Prior to any lab work students are required to come in lab-appropriate attire, meaning long pants, closed toed shoes and tied-back long hair. Further equipment is given to the students for extra protection such as lab coats, safety glasses, and gloves. All labs at the University of Lethbridge are equipped with fire extinguishers, emergency showers, eyewash stations, and first aid kits in case of dire situations. WHMIS training is provided to all students before any wet lab experiments, and advisor supervision is provided at all times to further ensure safety.
To address biosafety, the University of Lethbridge has a Risk and Safety Services committee tasked with ensuring that a safe work environment is upheld by all labs within the institution. The goal of the committee is to “... educate, mentor, foster and grow an environment to all members of the University of Lethbridge community where each accepts an individual and shared responsibility in growing a culture that is rich in the assessment , management and control of risk and safety.” - U of L Risk and Safety Services.
The Risk and Safety committee is aware of Lethbridge iGEM and of our project. They support our work as long as we follow the Laboratory Safety Guidelines outlined by Health Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada.