We believe to develop products or applications responsibly, your idea has to be positioned into the real world. Therefore, the potential benefits and risks of our project were determined in an extensive product and application analysis. To analyse the risks in a systematic way, we have developed a hands-on tool, which can be used by other iGEM teams as well.
Furthermore, to specify the desires of companies and the public, we have interacted with these stakeholders and have adapted our design. The experts have mentioned that for multiple industrial applications it is important that the biolenses are uniform and spherical. To make our project more suited for industrial applications, we have done research into possibilities to make the cells spherical. We have succeeded to make spherical cells that can be used to produce spherical biolenses.
Moreover, our team greatly values being part of the diverse and international iGEM community. We believe that iGEM strongly contributes in the development of synthetic biology, and have studied how its influence, potential and practice could be expanded . Therefore, we have written an analysis about iGEM with recommendations that can be used by, for example, the iGEM headquarters to optimize the potential of iGEM even more. For example, our complete analysis includes recommendations such as increased external collaborations between teams and the introduction of a biosafety-focused track.
Our project can be transformed into multiple applications. Here we explore and analyse the different potential real-life applications of our developed technologies.
While doing the safety analysis of our own project, we took inspiration from the way risks are systematically analysed in other research disciplines. It appears that in many disciplines, such as aerospace engineering, but also chemically engineering, risk analysis is done in a more standardized manner. Therefore, we have decided to develop and easy safety analysis tool that, we hope, other iGEM teams (or research groups) could use as a standard to evaluate the safety risks associated with their project. We also used the tool ourselves to analyse the potential risks of our own project.
Based on the results of our safety analysis, we concluded that our project could carry multiple risks that are important to identify and minimize, before transforming it into real life applications. The risks analysis, for example, showed that the antibiotic resistance of our microorganisms is a potential risk that have to be eliminated before the biolenses are allowed to leave the lab. One possibility to do this, is by sterilizing the biolenses and in that way make the microorganisms inside the biolenses inviable. In this section we have tested tree methods, respectively diffusion limitation, autoclaving and UV-sterilization.
It is important for us to understand the context of the industries in which our technologies could potentially operate. For that purpose, we decided to meet and discuss with different experts from our field of research, including physicists, experts in the field of imaging techniques or safety. Our conversations helped us improving our project significantly. For example, physicists have helped us to understand the physics behind our project and improve our models therefore, and because uniformity was important for many potential applications with microlenses, we decided to alter the cell shape to spherical.
One of the potential applications of our project, is the use of biological micro lenses for the development of novel for solar panels. The efficiency of solar panels can be increased by using an encapsulation layer of microlenses which result in more light capturing. We focused on this application to develop an business plan. Our plan was based on an extensive customer analysis, which helped us identifying customers’ special needs and requests.
Analysis about iGEM
We believe that iGEM has proven its added value to the synthetic biology world. However, we also think that there are always ways to optimize the potential of iGEM even more. Therefore, we have written an analysis about iGEM with many recommendations about, for example, new medal requirements and possibilities to increase scientific impact of iGEM further.
Based on the analysis we concluded that it would be useful to have a webpage that lists a selection of interesting tools that could be useful for the iGEM community, such as educational card games and tools that can be used in the lab. Our site can be used as a starting point to build an extensive Toolbox iGEM page.
Outreach and Conferences
It is crucial to communicate the public about the potential benefits and risks of our project, and especially in our case about the importance of improving imaging techniques. Also we wanted to learn about our projects’ public perception . Here we compile of different efforts to reach out to the public, visiting multiple event and congresses, as well as organizing workshops.