Human Practices

Meeting half way


After we had decided on Evobodies for our project in April, we quickly learned the difficulty of explaining our plans to others. Because binding proteins have major impacts on public life e.g. in pregnancy tests, we decided to spent a lot of time on elaborating new ways to explain and communicate Evobodies and synthetic biology with non-scientific people as well as with experts from other fields. In our opinion, a scientifically well executed project is equally important as the associated dialogue between scientists and the public. Without public approval a well executed synthetic biology project is not practical. The more we spoke with people not related to science, the more we learned how difficult it is to understand what white coated people do behind the closed laboratory doors. To breach this barrier, we engaged on the following different frontiers. Additionally, we were getting in close contact with scientists who would give us important information and interesting feedback on our project. These two different aspects aimed towardsimproving our project on a scintific level and connect the publicity with scientific research to cross boundaries and open hypothetical lab doors.

Language barrier

Over the course of creating our Evobody generating system we experienced extreme difficulties explaining topics like "directed evolution" or "two hybrid system" to a non-scientific auditorium. Our first presentation on our project was in April when we discussed the generation of Evobodies with staff of Bielefeld University. Already in this early stage, we experienced major issues when explaining the complex structure of our high speed evolution. From here on we were eager to improve our presentation skills and connect with our audience to raise the overall comprehensibility.
Due to these difficulties, we established dialogue with the cultural anthropologist Florian Helfer from Frankfurt, Germany. After a video conference, we were sure that the language barrier between regular language and scientific terminology is THE major issue when communicating scientific topics. That is why we started several follow-up projects to breach this barrier:

Because scientific language seems to non-scientific people like a foreign language, we created a dictionary on synthetic biology to translate scientific language and especially everything about Evobodies into regular English phrasing. We collected about 500 terms associated with our project or synthetic biology in general. This tool should support non scientific people to understand science related media and give scientists the chance to find simple words when explaining their research to a public audience.

Another highlight of our summer was the 5th annual CeBiTec students academy. Every year 20 ambitious high school students stay for one week at the CeBiTec to learn about recent research and collect practical experience what it means to work in a molecular biology laboratory. We instructed experiments in the field of synthetic biology and organized a barbecue for recreation in the evening. Once again we learned the difficulties to summarize our complex evolution system in a few sentences and learned a lot about communicating scientific methods and techniques. Furthermore we adopted measures to improve our presentation skills.

We transported the idea of directed evolution to human practice and started a series of presentations at high schools. After each session, we reflected on our presentation style and comprehensibility of certain parts in our construction. The results were quite surprising but gradually we were able to improve our presentation to enhance the general understanding of Evobodies without prior scientific knowledge.

To involve the public in our fundraising campaign we started a crowdfunding project on The videoclip we created received very positive feedback via social media and guaranteed the success of the campaign. Furthermore it explained in a very graphical way how our system works and where it can be applied. By showing how we are able to encounter natural evolution we wanted to retrieve public participation in our project. We received almost instantly feedback through financial support and comments through social media. Our initial aim on opening our project to a broader audience was just as successfully achieved as our monetary goal.

Of course we also established contact with local press to gain the general public attention for Evobodies and synthetic biology. Several press reports in print and digital media contributed to the awareness regarding genetic engineering.

Expert consultation

To analyze our project on a scientific level we further did our best to search for potential flaws or improvement in applicability and relevance of our system:

We were highly ambitious in contacting the science community to discuss and reflect our project. That is why we contacted a lot of scientists from different fields (e.g. virology and protein engineering) and discussed in a constant dialogue different aspects of our system. Especially Dr. Manel Camps from Santa Cruz University helped us a lot by answering our questions and giving us recommendations were to improve our project. We also attended different symposia to stay in touch with state of the art research and presented our poster at the CeBiTec Symposium to get in touch with other scientists in an uncomplicated way.

Process development

To further examine how applicable our system is regarding manufacturing processes, we created a concept on how to apply our method of Evobody generation on an industrial level. We developed a complete process from start to finish about using our molecular biological techniques on an up scaled level.

Business plan

Based on the process development and the integrated modeling, we did around our project, a business plan concerning Evobodies was constructed. In this plan we analyze not only applicability but also compare the parameters of our designed process to existing generation techniques in binding protein producing industry. Furthermore we examined aspects regarding legal guidelines, tax law, accreditation and marketing.