This year, our team accommodates around 30 students of various natural science and engineering fields. Since a lot of our team members work in the lab for the first time, our goal was to enable all of them to gather experiences in this field. Therefore, we wanted to ensure everyone working safely and we always began our lab work with a safety instruction. Directly afterwards, a lab introduction followed for all team members, even for those who did not wish to work in the lab at that time. Thus, every member knows how to react in an emergency and is aware of potentials risks.
For daily lab work, we established guidelines everyone has for everyone to follow when starting or ending lab work. For example, the first person to arrive and the last person to leave have to sign in a sheet and check the lab for tidiness. Also, our first time iGEM team members are not allowed to work in the lab on their own and there has to be an experienced member with them.
With our project, we aspire to contribute to the ecological production of plastics. Consisting of the monomers glycolic acid and lactic acid, the polymers we aim to produce are intended to be biodegradable and serve various applications. Yet, some of those applications would have to be approved by the FDA and require certain safety aspects. PLGA and PLGC's possible implementation involves drug delivery systems, various packaging materials, and medical prostheses. For medical usage it is important to achieve a certain level of purity and to avoid having GMOs in the final product. Since we purify our monomers via HPLC, the organisms do not end up in our plastic.
Another safety aspect we were thinking of, concerning medical applications, was the usage of a harmful initiator used in the chemical polymer synthesis. Our solution was using a not harmful co-initiator which is built in instead of the initiator.
There are several organisms we could have used for monomer production, e.g. Pseudomonas putida. Since P. putida is a S2 strain in most cases, we were hesitant to work with this organism, but came across a S1 strain after some research.