Setting up a lab at home

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Thu Sep 7 17:06:12 EST 1995

In article <542117089wnr at>, Duncan Clark
<Duncan at> wrote:

> It is perfectly possible to set up a lab at home here in the UK. It 
> just depends on waht you intend to do.
> I set up my company about 7/8 years ago with a lab in the garden shed 
> 10 x 6ft. No microbiology or cloning was carried out, just 
> purification of restriction enzymes and modifying enzymes. All 
> microbiology took place in an academic lab from plates to 20 litre

A _very_ interesting story of individual enterprise snipped...Thanks for
the posting, Duncan.

   I think the point raised about growing living organisms and recombinant
DNA is the critical one here. Routine subcloning (no viral vectors, etc.)
requires BL1 level conditions if 1) your project has NIH funding or 2) your
institute receives NIH funding. If neither of these applies NIH requests
that you comply, but has no direct oversight. This is taken out of
Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules, section IV-D.
Note that recombinant DNA molecules not in organisms are exempt. Also,
synthetic DNAs not expressed in vivo as a "biologically active
polynucleotide or polypeptide product" are exempt. 

   A quick look at "Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical
Laboratories" indicates that you could probably set aside a part of your
home and come fairly close to BL1 conditions. (Biosafety Level 1 conditions
are required for work with non-hazardous agents such as E. coli and S.
cerevisiae). The required facilities are a handwashing sink, no rugs (too
hard to decon) and benchtops impervious to water and resistent to acids,
organics, and moderate heat. Equipment- lab coats and safety glasses. The
only practice that might be awkward to properly comply with is decon. "All
cultures...are decontaminated before disposal by an approved
decontamination method, such as autoclaving. Materials to be decontaminated
outside of the immediate laboratory are to be placed in a durable,
leakproof container and closed for transport from the laboratory. Materials
to be decontaminated at off-site from the laboratory are packaged in
accordance with local, state, and federal regulations, before removal from
the facility." Maybe possible.

   I realize that this is a little long winded, but my point is that
certain things may well be ok to do at home, (such as purifying restriction
enzymes), but other procedures belong in the lab. Despite the fact that we
all may agree that there is no danger from routine rec DNA experiments,
public concern has driven the formulation of guidelines. If we ignore them,
we just give people like Jeremy Rifkin ammunition in his attempts to
prohibit all experimentation of this sort. 

  A vetern of lots of paperwork,

       Pam Norton
Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Assistant Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

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