In accordance with iGEM's safety and security policies, we have prioritised the development of a safe, secure and responsible project. We at Renervate Therapeutics, recognise the importance of conducting responsible research and upholding the values required by both the synthetic biology and King’s College London community. Below we discuss how we maintained the safety of our team, managed risks in the lab and conducted responsible research.
Our team was founded in the beginning of March, during this time we were working remotely and the United Kingdom had still not lifted the rules against meeting more than six people outdoors. We carried out all our meetings and workflows over zoom until the beginning of summer.
In June, our university was able to organise a large lecture theatre for our team members to meet and discuss the project. Initially, we were limited to six members per lecture theatre but as regulations continued to relax we were allowed to work together in one large space. We also made certain to provide a flexible schedule for everyone, ensuring to always have an option to complete work virtually.
We followed strict protocols to ensure our team members were kept safe throughout the summer, including, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing guidelines in closed spaces. Additionally, our team members underwent regular lateral flow testing to minimise exposure risks. In the scenario a team member presented with symptoms, we immediately returned to remote working and close contacts were required to get a PCR test in compliance with governmental guidelines.
Prior to commencing our wet lab work we received a safety induction by our Primary Investigator. This covered emergency procedures, good microbial technique and managing the biosafety equipment in our laboratory.
General safety guidelines we used to uphold good laboratory practice:
King’s College London maintained social distancing guidelines throughout the summer, which meant our experimental work was limited by the number of people allowed into the laboratory.
In compliance with the local and national rules and regulations, our wet lab members continued to wear face coverings at all times when working in the lab. Social distancing was strictly followed despite the small lab space, and regular hand-washing also took place.
Our experimental work was classified under safety level 1. We designed our experiments to comply with the risk groups assigned by iGEM and our institution, which requires all research projects to complete a Combined Biological Risk Assessment (CoBRA) prior to starting their research. The CoBRA assesses the risks of infection and damage to the environment and evaluates the control measures required.
In accordance with our safety level classification, we used low risk microorganisms. Our protocols included the following E.Coli strains; XL1-Blue, BL21, BL21 (DE3), Rosetta-Gami B (DE3), SHuffle (DE3). XL1-Blue was used for plasmid preparation and propagation, and BL21, BL21 (DE3), Rosetta-Gami B (DE3), SHuffle (DE3) were used for protein expression.
Our experiments involved the use of flammable and hazardous chemicals, including Methanol, Acetic acid, 30% Acrylamide / Bis 29:1. While using these chemicals our lab team followed the correct protocols and consulted the Materials Safety Data Sheet at all times to ensure safe handling.