Any properly conducted iGEM project requires responsibly and safely performed laboratory work. Like in any project, the main priority when working in the lab is not the results, but to ensure the safety of the people and the faculties when working in the lab. On our part, our team is devoted to working responsibly and outrightly in the laboratory, so that we can advance safer laboratory work for other iGEMers and scientists.
In addition, we hope that by sharing our results, protocols and procedures we can make working with Vibrio natriegens safer for the upcoming V. natriegens enthusiasts. Overall, our team strives to work responsibly and take safety and ethics carefully into account in our project design and laboratory work. We conduct research that is safe for us and for the environment.
Our team is committed fully to follow iGEMs official safety and security policies and as a consequence of that, our whole team has received extensive laboratory safety training required by the institution for working in the university’s laboratory faculties. In addition to the formal safety training, we have also received additional safety trainings to deepen our knowledge and know-how on responsible and secure laboratory working, including several introductions to different laboratory equipment for their safe use (See attributions page for these persons). Our team has worked exclusively only in biosafety level one laboratory. Below you’ll see our general rules for safe working in the laboratory. Complete safety protocols for our faculties you can find here: https://www.aalto.fi/en/services/occupational-safety-school-of-chemical-engineering.
- Tie your hair
- No eating and drinking in the lab
- Do not work alone in the lab, especially late at night
- No mouth-pipetting or sniffing of the cultures!
- When dealing with hazardous chemicals, use fume hood and gear up accordingly.
- Wash your hands always before and after the lab
- Mark containers, flasks and bottles properly, take detailed notes of your work!
- Always read the safety data sheets before using the particular chemical
- Leave your lab coat to the lab to avoid contamination
- Clean the spots where you have been working
- Mark GMO containing containers properly and handle GMO waste by the rules of the laboratory
- Make sure you know where emergency showers, fire blankets, eyewash bottles, and first aid kits are placed in the lab before you start working
- ALWAYS wear protective clothing in the laboratory. (lab coat, safety goggles, disposable gloves)
Our work focuses on two different safety level 1 organisms, bacterium Vibrio natriegens, and bacterium Escherichia coli. They both are non-pathogenic, safe to work with and do not possess harm to human beings, although V. natriegens is naturally harmful to a handful of marine crustaceans. We used the following strains. V.natriegens: ATCC 14048 and Vmax. E. coli: DH5alpha and BL21. The used E. coli strains are laboratory strains with no natural environment. No humans or animals were tested nor harmed in our laboratory experiments.
Our project does not aim for release of our genetically modified organisms and following the iGEMs official ‘Do not release’ -policy concerning GMOs, all of our laboratory work will remain at an experimental stage.
Our team did not take lightly the hazard and possibility of our genetically modified bacteria getting out of our laboratory, so preventive action played a key part. This was mostly achieved by following our laboratory rules obediently and making sure no GMO material was transported outside of the laboratory faculties. All GMO containing waste was handled properly with cautiousness during the laboratory work of our project. In the media and the general public genetically modified organisms are seen still sometimes rather as a threat than an opportunity, and we want to do our part in showing that this is not the case. The best way to show this is working responsibly and transparently in the lab.
Biopharmaceuticals are defined as a medical drugs produced using biotechnology. Biopharmaceutical compounds are produced in an engineered organism that naturally does not produce the biopharmaceutical compound. This technology enables large quantity production of such pharmaceuticals that have been previously unavailable or difficult to produce (Kesik‐Brodacka, 2017). Recombinant proteins are a class of biopharmaceuticals, and include many commonly used medications such as insulin, human growth hormone, and some anticoagulant factors.
Well designed and tested biopharmaceuticals are a safer option for medications manufactured by many older methods. Before the first therapeutic recombinant protein, the recombinant human insulin, was developed, proteins used as drugs were produced by purifying or extracting biological material, such as donated blood, or material from other animals and cadavers. This led to serious safety issues due to the inability to secure medicines free of viral infections. Therefore, introducing manufacturing of therapeutic proteins as recombinant proteins has tremendously increased the safety of these medications. In addition, recombinant proteins are known to be rather safe from off-target side effects (Bartfai & Lees, 2013). Like any medication, biopharmaceuticals undergo a rigorous drug development and clinical trials process to ensure safety. Medication is also monitored closely by healthcare professionals to make sure appropriate patient outcome. To read more about the lifespan of a biopharmaceutical, please visit our Integrated Human Practices page.
Bartfai, T., & Lees, G. (2013). The need for medicines grows. The Future Of Drug Discovery, 31-53.
Kesik‐Brodacka, M. (2017). Progress in biopharmaceutical development. Biotechnology And Applied Biochemistry, 65(3), 306-322.