"Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands"Jeff Cooper
To minimize the risks while working on the iGEM project we chose the chassis organism Yarrowia lipolytica which is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) and non-pathogenic to humans. Aside from that we worked with the Escherichia coli DH5 alpha laboratory strain which does not pose a threat to healthy humans. We also did some growth experiments with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, another GRAS organism.
In our choice of genetic material we considered the risks the origin organism could pose. We only used genes from safe sources such as Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, Renilla reinformis and the human gene for pre-insulin codon optimised with our own codon-optimization tool for Y. lipolityca.
Laboratory Safety Measures
All work with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were performed in class 1 GMO laboratories following the required procedures. This include amongst others wearing laboratory coats, gloves and goggles, disinfecting surfaces, tools etc. with ethanol and autoclaving all waste, used tools and discarded cultures. We used laf-benches whenever possible to avoid the fire hazard of gas flames when performing sterile work. The Hamilton robot used as fermentation platform was decontaminated before and after each use with UV light.
In our work with hazardous substances we took extra safety measures and worked with utmost caution. We used laf-benches and powerful suction in the experiments performed with 2-Mercaptoethanol (BME). SYBR-Safe was always handled with gloves and caution. Containers with liquid nitrogen were only opened and cooling conducted in well ventilated rooms.