Safety/White List

White List

On this page you will find information on: Organisms, Parts, Activities, and FAQ.

Banned Organisms/Parts

Some of the most dangerous organisms and parts are not allowed in iGEM, even with a Check-In:

  • High concentrations or large volumes of SARS-CoV-2 virus
  • Whole organisms from Risk Group 3
  • Whole organisms from Risk Group 4
  • Parts from Risk Group 4 organisms

If you find that you want to use a banned organism/part, you should redesign your project to use a safer substitute. Consult your advisor or contact us at safety [AT] igem [DOT] org to get advice on choosing a substitute.

Organisms

Organisms on the White List (left column) can be used without being checked-in. Teams require permission in advance from the Safety and Security Committee to use all other organisms, such as the examples provided below (right column). Permission should be requested by completing a Check-In Form before using an organism not on the White List.

White List (no Check-In required) Check-In Required (examples only!)
Whole Organisms
(including viral genomes)
  • Risk Group 1 microorganisms, other than spore-forming fungi
    (For example: E. coli K-12, S. cerevisiae, B. subtilis, Lactobacillus spp.)
  • Spore-forming fungi (including from Risk Group 1)
  • All organisms that require enhanced containment (e.g. BSL2), such as those from Risk Group 2 or plant pathogens, or that otherwise pose a risk should they be released
  • Commercially available disarmed strains of plant pathogens commonly used to transfect plants (such as Agrobacterium tumefaciens)
  • Wildtype strains of plant pathogens commonly used to transfect plants (such as Agrobacterium tumefaciens)
  • Other disarmed strains of plant pathogens intended to be used to transfect plants, including those prepared by an iGEM team
  • Bacteriophages T2, T4, T7, M13, P1, ΦX174 (Phi X 174), and λ (Lambda), unless containing a virulence factor (see below)
  • Phagemids
  • Other viruses and bacteriophages, including SARS-CoV-2 virus
  • Human and primate cell lines that have been tested and certified free of known pathogens (consult your vendor; see FAQ), including for example HEK293 cell lines.
  • Cell lines from plants, fungi, or animals that are not primates (such as CHO cells ⇗ or plant cells)
  • All primary isolated cells (that is, cells taken directly from the body of a multicellular organism)
  • C. elegans (nematodes)
  • Physcomitrella patens, Arabidopsis spp., Nicotiana spp.
  • Teams are responsible for ensuring that any use of a model organism is consistent with their local, institutional and national rules and regulations.
  • Other multicellular organisms (humans, animals, plants, insects, etc.).
  • Additional permission is required from the Safety and Security Committee for the use of any vertebrates (e.g. rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters), or higher order invertebrates (e.g. cuttlefish, octopus, squid, lobster) in iGEM projects – see the Safety and Security Policy page for more details.
...and anything not explicitly listed

Parts

Parts on the White List (left column) can be used without being checked-in. Teams require permission in advance from the Safety and Security Committee to use all other parts, such as the examples provided below (right column). Permission should be requested by completing a Check-In Form before using a part not on the White List.

White List (no Check-In required) Check-In Required (examples only!)
Parts All Registry parts, except those with a Red Flag placed by the Safety Committee Registry parts that have a Red Flag, which looks like this. A complete list of parts with Red Flags can be found here.
Any part from a Risk Group 3 organism, regardless of its function
Any fragment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus
Any part containing any gene which could endow or enhance pathogenicity, or in itself or through its transcribed or translated products, represent a significant hazard to health from a human or animal bacterial or fungal pathogen ⇗ or a plant pathogen ⇗ listed by the Australia Group
Any part containing any gene from a human or animal viral pathogen ⇗ listed by the Australia Group
Any part containing any gene which codes for a toxin ⇗ listed by the Australia Group
Non-protein-coding parts in the following categories:
  • Promoters, RBSes, Terminators
  • Binding sites for transcriptional regulators, endonucleases, and other proteins that bind to DNA
  • Aptamers and catalytic RNAs
  • CRISPR guide RNAs, microRNAs, small interfering RNAs, and short hairpin RNAs that do not target human genes
  • CRISPR guide RNAs, microRNAs, small interfering RNAs, and short hairpin RNAs that target human genes
  • Parts that encode non-proteinaceous toxins, such as bioactive peptides, non-protein amino acids, and other non-proteinaceous components harmful to humans, animals, or plants
  • Parts likely to increase potential for horizontal gene transfer, such as origin-of-transfer sequences
  • Other non-protein-coding genes
Prions from non-mammalian organisms, such as yeast Prions from mammals, such as human PrP
Proteins or protein-coding genes from animals, plants, or Risk Group 1 / Risk Group 2 microorganisms, EXCEPT those in the list of "dangerous categories" on the right Proteins or protein-coding genes in the following dangerous categories:
  • Virulence factors (see FAQ)
  • Factors that help pathogens evade or shut down the immune system
  • Factors that help pathogens halt the host's DNA/RNA replication, transcription, or translation
  • Factors that regulate the immune system, such as cytokines and interferons
  • Proteins that are toxic to humans, animals, or plants
  • Enzymes that produce a molecule that is toxic to humans, animals, or plants
  • Parts likely to increase potential for horizontal gene transfer, such as transferases
...and anything not explicitly listed

Activities

Activities on the White List (left column) can be carried our without being checked-in. Teams require permission in advance from the Safety and Security Committee some activities, such as the examples provided below (right column). Permission should be requested by completing a Check-In Form before carrying out these experiments.

White List (no Check-In required) Check-In Required
Activities Anything not explicitly listed Experiments to help develop diagnostics, therapeutics, or vaccines for COVID-19.
Experiments likely to bias the inheritance frequency of a genetic marker in an organism’s progeny, such as through the creation of a gene drive.
Experiments likely to render a vaccine ineffective.
Experiments likely to increase the antimicrobial resistance of any human, animal, or plant pathogen.
Experiments making use of antimicrobial resistance factors not in common use in the host institution.
Experiments intended to confer resistance for an antimicrobial not previously conferred to that organism (e.g., conferring vancomycin resistance to a bacteria that has never been made resistant in the past).
Experiments likely to make hazardous biological agents more hazardous, such as enhancing the virulence or transmissibility of a human, plant, or animal pathogen, or altering its host-range.
Experiments likely to result in a novel hazardous biological agent, such as by rendering a non-pathogen virulent, or conferring degradation of, or the ability to damage, important materials (such as electronics, plastics, etc.).
Experiments likely to enable a hazardous agent (such as pathogens or organisms capable of damaging important materials) to evade common diagnostic or detection tools.
Experiments likely to make a biological agent or toxin more suitable for use as a weapon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What if I'm not sure whether my organism/part requires a Check-In?

Ask us! Contact safety AT igem DOT org. Alternatively, because the Check-In form is short, you could choose to send a Check-In even if you are unsure.



Where can I submit a Check-In?

Submit a Check-In here.



How do I find out the Risk Group of an organism?

Consult the Risk Group Guide.



What if the White List changes during the summer?

As we learn more, we might add things to the White List, but we will not remove things from the White List until after the Jamboree each year. So, if something is on the White List now, it will stay on the White List for the whole 2019 season.



Our project is to detect a dangerous organism. In order to test our project, we want to handle the dangerous organism (or parts of it), but it will not be part of what we build.
Do we still have to send a Check-In?

Yes. The Check-In requirement applies to all organisms and all parts that you will handle in the lab, even if they will not be part of your final project.



What exactly counts as a "whole organism"?

For the purposes of this White List, a "whole organism" is an entire cell or multicellular organism, whether alive or dead. Intact, isolated viral genomes are also considered "whole organism", because many viral genomes can be pathogenic if they enter a host cell, even without the viral capsule.
(Isolated non-viral genomes are considered parts. Individual nucleic acids and proteins are also parts.)



What is a virulence factor?

Virulence Factors of Pathogenic Bacteria ⇗ is a good resource where you can look up virulence factors in some well-studied pathogens. It gives this definition: "Virulence factors refer to the properties (i.e., gene products) that enable a microorganism to establish itself on or within a host of a particular species and enhance its potential to cause disease. Virulence factors include bacterial toxins, cell surface proteins that mediate bacterial attachment, cell surface carbohydrates and proteins that protect a bacterium, and hydrolytic enzymes that may contribute to the pathogenicity of the bacterium."



We are going to use a lot of parts. May we combine them on a single Check-In?

If the parts all come from the same parent organism, you may combine them on a single Check-In, but make sure you give complete information about each part. If the parts come from different parent organisms, please send separate Check-Ins, or contact safety AT igem DOT org to ask about combining several Check-Ins into a spreadsheet.



What about experiments with human subjects, such as surveys or software user-testing?

If you conduct any experiments with human subjects, you must follow your country's laws and your university's rules. You must get approval from the appropriate authorities, even for non-invasive experiments like surveys.



We are going to handle an organism in lab, but we will only extract some DNA from it using PCR -- we won't use it as our chassis.
Do we still have to send a Check-In?

Yes. The Check-In requirement applies to all organisms and all parts that you will handle in the lab, even if they will not be part of your final project.



How can I find out if my cell line is free of pathogens? What pathogens should I be concerned about?

If you bought the cells from a vendor or a culture collection, then you can consult their catalog. Many catalogs will list safety and pathogen information -- if you cannot find it, contact the vendor. If you received the cells from another lab, you should find out where they originally came from.

Cell lines can contain harmful viruses. Sometimes, the viral genome is integrated into the cell's genome. Most viruses have a limited "host range", which means that they can only infect closely related species. Therefore, viruses living in a human or monkey cell line are likely to be dangerous to humans, but viruses living in an insect cell line probably cannot infect humans. If you work with a cell line from humans or other primates ⇗, you should check whether it contains viruses or viral genomic DNA. Viruses have Risk Group numbers, so if your cell line contains any viruses, you must handle it at the laboratory Safety Level that is appropriate for the highest Risk group virus it contains.

Some dangerous viruses that infect human cell lines: HBV (hepatitis B virus) ⇗, HCV (hepatitis C virus) ⇗, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) 1 & 2 ⇗, HTLV (human T-lymphotropic virus) 1 & 2 ⇗, CMV (cytomegalovirus) ⇗

Questions?

If you have any questions on any of these topics, please emails us at safety [AT] igem [DOT] org.