Safety and Ethics
From BioE80 Boot
The project (Stanford BIOE.80, Spring 2017) had been developed to be safe and compatible with essentially all undergraduate teaching labs around the country. For example, the project features:
- No intact genome: the genetic information within the E80boot project cannot readily replicate itself because it will only exist across a set of many hundred DNA fragments. Moreover, while our synthetic DNA encodes the essential genes, the DNA lacks the sequences required to either (a) assemble into a circular chromosome or (b) be replicated by the system.
- No toxins: our synthetic DNA does not encode any known toxins or proteins which produce known toxins.
- Context: our DNA will only be expressed, and is only capable of being expressed, in the controlled environment of a specialized cell-free expression system within a laboratory. The system should not be capable of expression under 'natural' environmental conditions.
- Separation of Design and Test: the students are responsible for generating (and documenting) DNA designs, but the actual fabrication of the DNAs and the evaluation of their aggregate characteristics will take place elsewhere and will be performed by lab technicians with all applicable training. The students then electronically receive the results of the 'wet-lab' work, so that they can use this information for improving their designs.