During our initial discussions, apart from the human practices and the experiments, our group was actively thinking about biosafety. From the choice of our Chassis to our reagents, we made sure that they were as safe as possible as we are targeting to make an easily accessible diagnosis tool. To further this discussion and to be critiqued we actively sought input from the general public during our public engagement events at the Join School Science exhibition (add a link here). We also conducted a biosafety meetup ( add a link here) where we invited all Hong Kong iGEM teams and also teams from Shenzhen to talk about the work and critique biosafety measures taken by other teams. Lastly, we also invited a speaker from a biohacker space called DIYBIO to understand the difficulties and measures taken in “non-academic” Labs.
Our team submitted the "About our Project" Form and "About our Lab" Form in June 2017 and both forms have been approved.
Still worried? Scroll down for the stringent policies in our laboratory:
Before our project started in June 2017, all of our members attended a laboratory introductory session, or 'lab tour', where rules, guidelines and procedures of common equipment operations were given by the laboratory technicians from the School of Biomedical Sciences, HKU. Laboratory sessions were always under supervision of lab technicians.
In this project, we are going to let our DNA-nanostructure to be synthesized and self-assembled in E.Coli, therefore our risk assessment will be focusing on the usage and storage of E. Coli. Most of the experiments were conducted in vitro and did not involve dangerous chemical or biological species that may trigger hazards. The risk level of our project is level 1, indicating low risk. We used E. coli DH10β, which is a non-pathogenic strain. The DNA sequences transformed into the bacteria would not confer toxicity, pathogenicity, or selective growth advantage in the body of healthy adults.
Escherichia coli is a member of the family Enterobacteriaceae and is a Gram-negative rod which can be motile by peritrichous flagella or nonmotile. Although its risk level is level one only, direct contact may lead to serious aftermath. Direct contact with E. coli may lead to eye and skin irritation and harmful by inhalation or swallowed. If anyone suffered from direct contact with E. coli, they are suggested to rinse the wound with plenty of water and call a physician if applicable.
During the kick-off period where most of the preliminary tests were performed, seeing bio-waste treatments are one of the common concerns, instructors always demonstrate the proper way of disposal. We categorized the wastes into gel stain waste, bacterial waste and the others according to the instructions all the time.. Any doubts among the team were raised top instructors for clarification at all times.
Last but not least, of course we would not forget about the basics – ensuring laminar airflow, wearing laboratory coats and gloves. We also dispose of the gloves appropriately after each experiment according to the categories described above.