Last week, we went to Bern to show our project to the Swiss Authorities (BAFU). We met with Basil Gerber and his colleagues and gave them a presentation (Powerpoint file with comments : Final Presentation for Bern / Pdf file : Pdf presentation) introducing Biodesign and our project and we also showed them how the prototype works.
Here, it’s a little video to describe how the prototype works:
The main issue was to convince them that our prototype keeps the GMO confined and thus avoids release in the field. The pupose of our visit was to obtain feedback on our risk assessment and proposed field kit for arsenic detection by bacterial bioreporters.
To do so, we did a complete risk analysis of our prototype and thus showing that there is an extremely limited risk of contamination. We also compared it to the system used by ARSOlux because it has already been approved by the German authorities and that it uses a similar mechanism to ours (vial and similar bioreporter). We also provided the risk assessment of ARSOlux done by the ZKBS departement. They have done studies on the survival of E.coli strains in soil, and the possibility of conjugation soil-resident bacteria.
In conclusion, we agreed that our system is confined and that it concordes with the Swiss laws! However, it was noted by Basil Gerber that the use of syringes, in order to transfer water samples into our vial containing the bacteria, could be a potential danger to the user. Indeed, one could hurt himself with the pointy needle with possible public health consequences, such as infected oneself with patohgens in water samples. We will thus have to investigate in finding a safe needle to use. Some possibilties which have been proposed by Dr.Leuenberger can be seen here.
We are happy that in concept, we have come to a verbal agreement.The only step remaining before we can go into the field from a legal point of view is to file an official notification to BAFU.
For the next step, we will be working on the improvement of the prototype i.e :
– a LED to measure the turbidity of the sample for the calibration of our data
– a built-in interface (screen, buttons and battery)
– the design of a more efficient box
Also, we would like to test our prototype in the field as we will soon have the official agreement from the authorities!