There is vast potential for synthetic biology to address global issues, such as maternal and child health. Social justice for women in resource poor areas lacking access to essential medicines, and suffering fatal consequences because of it, is the primary motivation for our project. We set out to create medicines, tools, and processes that would ultimately make life-saving technologies available to the millions of women in developing countries dying preventable deaths during childbirth. Our project was informed by one of our member's work in Kenyan maternity wards with nurses and midwives. Her interviews and observations helped lay the foundation for the sustainable and low-cost design of many of our bio-tools. We designed our systems, both hardware and biological, with resource-constrained environments like those in rural areas of Kenya, in mind. We attempted to source parts and materials that were low-cost and easily accessible in most areas or could be swapped out for local materials elsewhere. The final deliverable of our project, the yeast dryer, was designed to directly address sustinability issues by providing a low-cost and temperature-independent way to transport biological diagnostic tools to rural areas, where they could be put to use with nothing more than sugar, water, and the test-substance.
The ethical use of synthetic biology is something Denver Biolabs takes very seriously. We strive to educate our members and workshop participants about the implications, both good and bad, of applying synthetic biology techniques, such as CRISPR. In our workshops and during guest speakers and lectures, we ensure that discussion is fostered around the application and implementation of some of these technologies to address various problems. In addition, Denver Biolabs is homed within Inworks at the University of Colorado Denver, which has as its primary mission to educate interdisciplinary groups of students how to innovate and create in a sustainable, ethical, and impactful way.