The unique expertise (i.e. lawyers, designers, scientists, engineers) of our team allowed us to take our project to another level; expanding on the discussions with professionals and truly incorporating human practice elements into all aspects of our project (i.e. science, design, and application). We were successful throughout the project, incorporating various sources of feedback and complementing the scientific advances with human practice activities. It was very interesting witnessing how this iterative process evolved as we discussed with professionals, scientists, and the public about our project. Our understanding and knowledge about synthetic biology deepened as the science portion of our project progressed. Thus, we had to take several important things into consideration to address various aspects of human practice.
To begin, we took iGEM to the schools, the streets, and to the science communities to gain insight and understanding about people’s perspectives/opinions pertaining to the use of synthetic biology. We conducted surveys, gathering information from the public and had an educational debate in the schools. From these interactions, we incorporated aspects such as hardware design, the safety features of our device, and the fears of using synthetic biology into account as we designed our device to ensure it was as safe as possible. First, we destroyed our GMO in the lab and made sure it was not in our device. Second, having designers on our team allowed us to further our discussions with several mosquito specialists and build a device that met all of the criteria to ensure not just the safety of the operators, but also the local public that could potentially come in contact with the device. Additionally, our design was well thought out to include special features that attract the mosquitoes to the device, trap the mosquitoes inside the device, and safely absorb all potentially harmful liquids.
Next, we learned how professionals, that presently gather similar types of information about areas infested with mosquitoes, would receive our device and how there current methods could be easier if Mos(kit)o was applied in the field. Indeed, we conducted research to find out if there was a need for a mosquito trapping and analyzing system and quickly found out that yes, our system would be a great asset in the fight against emerging arboviruses. We understood what was currently being used and we imagined how our device could expand on methods that aren’t as efficient and make our device more efficient. This was crucial information that assisted us in the development of our scenarios as we took our project “outside the lab” and as thoroughly as possible, conceptually visualized Mos(kit)o in the “real world”. We were successful in doing this and received positive feedback from two professionals on potential collaborations, where they would like to use our device in a pilot study. Additionally, we had to think outside of the box and anticipate the social and ethical issues that could arise from developing a synthetic biology project. This was another successful discussion/collaboration with the Rathenau Instituut as we developed both scenarios, integrating human practice throughout the progression of our project.
And finally, during our project’s development, we realized that launching a business required a strong intellectual property strategy. We used the expertise of our team’s law students and presented at our Ile de France meet-up about open science and intellectual property law. From this presentation, we collected feedback, which revealed that not just our team had questions pertaining to the development of an intellectual property strategy that would be in compliance with the iGEM rules/framework, so did other teams. This was a missing piece to the puzzle that was essential for all teams to understand. Therefore, we decided to write a report evaluating the compatibility of an open science model with the pursuit of iGEM projects after the competition. It was our intent that it would be a document that would be helpful to other iGEM teams in the future. This document is available on our wiki (evidence). This topic was essential for our understanding. We hope to see Mos(kit)o live long and prosper! For this purpose, we documented our research in a way that would make it possible for future teams, or someone else, to benefit from our research and build upon our project!