Biosafety is the precaution of large-scale loss of biological integrity in terms of ecology and human’s health. These precaution mechanisms include conducting regular reviews of the biosafety in laboratory settings, following strict guidelines, employing an ongoing risk management assessment and so on. Downplaying or failing to fulfill such protocols can lead to augmented risk of exposure to biohazards or pathogens.
Risk assessment& Precautions:
Our project is to develop a sound whole-cell photocatalytic nitrogen fixation system, using engineered E.coli BL21 or JM109.
We believe that risks are primarily embodied in three aspects and we have figured out appropriate solutions to all of them. Firstly, some chemical and molecular biology reagents we use in experiments might be harmful and noxious. In order to reduce the adverse effect of these reagents on the environment and our health, we put the hazardous reagents in proper storage, and carry out special procedures when dealing with them. For example, cadmium ion, a toxic substance, is involved for CdS precipitation. We rigorously recycle the sewage containing Cd ion every time handling it.
Another safety concern comes from the inflammable and explosive acetylene we use to test the activity of nitrogenase. In order to avoid gas leakage, the gas cylinders which contains acetylene are operated correctly and inspected regularly by special security staffs.
Thirdly, although both E.coli BL21 and JM109 are in Risk Group 1 and can cause no disease to healthy adults, the genetically modified(GM) organisms can potentially pose threats to the welfare of people and the environment if released to real world. So we have very strict rules to prevent this from happening. The waste produced in the lab are periodically collected, sterilized and categorized by our team members and then recycled by professional chemical waste recycling companies. These standard procedures guarantee that the GM organisms would never escape from our labs.
We have inspectors to ensure our operation correctness and all team members have received systematical biosafety training from relevant courses in advance. We all possess the skills in waste disposal, accident prevention, emergency measures(such as how to tackle fire, electric leakage and negligent wounds) and so on. During our experiments, we stringently observed the biosafety guidelines issued both by our university and WHO.
Biosafety and the environment:An introduction to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. GE.03-01836/E. United Nations Environment Programme. p. 8.