Team:Sao Carlos-Brazil/Safety


Safety first!

Security is as important inside an iGEM project as it is out of it. To execute our project always having in mind the security of operators and the environment, we have followed the common guidelines of scientific work. In the following text, we describe our work in the lab and out of it during transportation and probe launching/landing.

During our project we were concerned to fulfill all of iGEM's safety requirements. We have followed all established guidelines and submitted all required forms to assure the biosafety of our project and launch. Our team is confident that none of the parts of our project pose any risks for human or animal health nor to the environment.

Lab Safety

The entire project was executed in Biosafety Level 01 laboratories, equipped accordingly, in University of São Paulo Institute of Physics (IFSC) and Laboratory of Astrobiology (Astrolab). To work safely, we have used Biosafety Cabinets and all contaminated material and liquids were sterilized with the aid of an autoclave, before discarding. All procedures were performed with the aid of qualified personnel who work in the labs.

Microorganism Safety

All microorganisms used during the project are in the Risk Group 1

class: the fermenting yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli. In one of the tests we have used melanin from the fungus Exophiala sp, but it poses no threat to human or animal health, nor to the environment.

Transportation Safety

To transport our modified samples of E. coli from IFSC, in São Carlos, to Astrolab, in São Paulo, and perform the experiments in the Irradiation chamber, we have used closed and sealed containers to avoid any kind of leaking or spillage.

Launch Safety

In our project, we have used stratospheric probes guided by Helium balloons to expose the non-modified yeast to high altitude conditions, which are similar to Mars. Despite not being controlled, the balloon flight is modeled using specific software and, according to the volume of helium inserted into the balloon, it is possible to precisely predict the probe’s landing. Thus, it landed on a safe place, away from urban centers or dense bushes.

We have made sure that the experiments took place safely. Initially, we contacted iGEM’s director of safety and security, Dr. Piers Millett, to ask some questions about the possibility of a high-altitude balloon experiment using our genetically modified yeast. The suggestion was that we consulted our local legislation, which has been performed by our Human Practices team. We have decided against the experiment due to its categorization as a planned release by the Brazilian regulatory agency (CTNBio). However, the current legislation is still unclear and poor in details, as well as that of other international agencies we have consulted. We have worked to improve this in our country, suggesting some changes in our legislation.