Team:Open Science Global/Safety


General Lab Safety

Safety is the main prerequisite for the functioning of a laboratory, it guarantees the proper functioning as well as the safety of its members, the public, and the environment. Safety is an ongoing process and requires education, observation and critical thinking before starting any laboratory procedures.

Our project was made in multiple biosafety level 1 laboratories around the world, because of that, different policies regarding the making and usage of GMO were revised. Every lab has its own rules based on local regulations, but some general rules are universal and were followed by our wetlab team.

General Rules:

  • Long hair and loose clothing must be pulled back and secured from entanglement or potential capture.
  • Procedures should be developed that minimize the formation and dispersion of aerosols.
  • Perform work with hazardous chemicals in a properly working fume hood to reduce potential exposures.
  • Designated and well-marked waste storage locations are necessary.
  • Do not chew gum, drink, or eat while working in the lab.
  • Never leave an ongoing experiment unattended.
  • Never smell or taste chemicals.
  • Make sure you always follow the proper procedures for disposing lab waste.


Many of our team members are not located in the same city that our labs are. However, everyone received online general biosafety training to discuss and learn the requirements and good practices of working in a lab. After the online training, our different wetlab team members received specific in person training tailored to each location. Each lab had it’s training session consisting of :

  • Lab access and rules
  • Responsible individuals
  • Differences between biosafety levels
  • Biosafety equipment
  • Good microbial technique
  • Disinfection and sterilization
  • Emergency procedures
  • Transport rules
  • Physical biosecurity
  • Personnel biosecurity
  • Dual-use and experiments of concern
  • Data biosecurity /cyberbiosecurity
  • Chemicals, fire and electrical safety

Microorganism Handling

Our project has used well established Risk Group 1 Escherichia coli and Bacillus Subtilis for the production of well-characterized proteins; those species are non-pathogenic and possess no risk to the researchers, but some good practices and rules to handle the experiments and the organisms were as followed:

  • Proceed with caution. While most microorganisms encountered in the lab will not be pathogenic, it is a good idea to treat them as such.
  • Sterilize equipment and materials before starting work.
  • Disinfect workspaces before and after working with microorganisms.
  • Wash hands before and after conducting work.
  • Practice good hygiene in the lab. Do not wear open-toed shoes, keep long hair pulled back, and remove or secure any dangling jewelry or accessories worn.
  • Do not eat or drink in the lab.
  • Only work with microorganisms from known sources.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Never pipette by mouth.
  • Minimize clutter in the work space.
  • Label everything so that it is clear what it is, who it belongs to, and when the work was done.
  • Label agar plates on the agar side.
  • Autoclave or disinfect waste.


Although the organisms used in our experiments are not pathogenic, the work environment and some chemicals used still pose risks to our researchers. Some examples of the chemicals used are hydrochloric acid (acidic) and sodium hydroxide (basic) to adjust the pH of buffers and growth media, some antibiotics, and other chemicals commonly used in synthetic biology experiments. Our team received proper training to handle these chemicals in a safer manner using the right equipment such as fume hoods, lab coats and gloves.

Ethical Questions

Decentralizing and distributing the means of biotechnological production may increase the risk of someone, somewhere, producing something harmful, either accidentally or on purpose. To minimize the risks of accidental, harmful biotechnological production and release, it is imperative that systems for democratized bioproduction be developed in lock step with robust materials and trainings in risk assessment, sterile procedures and biocontainment; as well as systems to enable biotech practitioners to verify the identity and the quality of their biomanufactured products.

All teams must be honest and transparent in our assessment and communication about the potential risks of biotechnology, along with the potential benefits, lest our project encourage people to try bioengineering without a good understanding of these risks. To minimize the risks of intentionally harmful bioproduction, the entire community of biotechnologists must foster a culture of responsibility and global citizenship. Additionally, there may be some technologies, such as de-novo synthesis of arbitrary DNA sequences, that should not (yet) be democratized, at least until biotechnology and our societies have advanced and developed to the point of being able to rapidly detect and deploy countermeasures to biological threats before they cause serious harm. Initiatives like iGEM and the Free Genes Project are essential to achieve this by cultivating a citizen’s ethos among biotechnologists.

Chassis Organisms

Species Name Risk Group Disease risk to humans? Disease or other risks to the environment?
Escherichia Coli TOP10 RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids
Escherichia Coli DH5a RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids
Escherichia Coli NEB5a RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids
Escherichia Coli NEB10beta RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids
Bacillus Subtilis KO7 RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids
Pichia Pastoris CBS7435 (∆his4+∆pep4+∆prb1) RG1 None Unlikely, potential for horizontal gene transfer of plasmids