Every successful project starts with a thoughtful idea. Therefore, in the beginning of the project, it is important not only to generate an idea but as well to find compelling arguments that it is absolutely necessary to carry it out. Seeking to accomplish this, we consulted with a number of professionals on PKU field, including gastroenterologist and medical microbiologist. Most importantly, throughout the project timeline, our team kept in touch with medical geneticists, which is the leading investigator of phenylketonuria cases in Lithuania. Due to this work, we ascertained the necessity of our project, as every other patient is not able to follow the strict diet due to various reasons, which leads to mental retardation. There are no other treatments besides the diet for people suffering from severe form of PKU, which is the most common among cases, thus, a new medical approach would be very beneficial.
Next step after our project's importance affirmation was to gather the informational background on possible approaches. At this step, we consulted with many experienced and keen to help scientists from Vilnius University Life Sciences Centre as well as with scientists from 'Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics'. We were communicating with professional throughout the whole project. We are especially thankful to 'Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics' scientific team, with which we held meetings every week to present our project and discuss problems we encountered.
While being quite a large team, consisting of 16 members, we were curious what is the reasonably way in dividing work. Thus, we surveyed 50 iGEM teams from previous years to gather some information about the team management in order to understand what is the best way to organise work in the team while trying to achieve the best results. We then reorganised our team according to the results and divided it into different subgroups with specific function to make work more efficient.
During our work, we experienced certain difficulties while addressing society, public and private organisations because of the lack of business entity. To ease partnership with organisations and dialogue with the society we founded a non-profit association 'SinBiO' - Organisation of Synthetic Biology ('Sintetinės Biologijos Organizacija'). Its main goals are to support Vilnius iGEM team and events it holds, organise educational activities, enlighten the society about life sciences and unite students and scientists, interested in synthetic biology.
Considering the possible design of the probiotics, our most important task was to communicate with potential users: ascertain the necessity of our product one more time and adjust its design to their needs. To further implement our research into practice and understand those affected by the disease, we've contacted the Lithuanian Phenylketonuria Patients Association 'Dalia' which provided us with useful information. What is more, we participated in the annual association organised summer camp in which we not only presented our idea but also met the people who are likely to use our probiotic. The meeting with PKU patients made a huge impact on us. It let us understand, that the realization of our project would be a great relief to many people. Another thing we did to better understand the needs of our potential beneficiaries, was conducting a survey on the use of probiotics. We adjusted our ideas to the results of this survey and information we collected during our visit: decided to create an everyday use probiotic in a form of a pill.
To summarise, during our project we sought to optimise our work to create best possible approach by communicating with specialists and potential users and reasonably managing teamwork using our additional work's beneficial outputs.