Tracking of the thought for a
Responsible Research and Innovation
From idea to concept: the tracking of the thought
When we first started our brainstorming sessions early on this year, our project ideas were mainly focused on biosensors.
Therefore, three research fields were identified: Environment, Diagnostics and Civil Defence. Those themes were quite influenced by the world context (Zika and Ebola outbreaks, the quality of water all around the world, etc...) in accordance with iGEM philosophy: “Synthetic biology to improve the world”.
Diagnostics was selected and we focused our reflection on the shape of the diagnostic device, the fluid for the sample and usability and acceptability constraints.
Here is a little summary of our brainstorming (in chronological order):
Quickly, STDs diagnostic appeared to be the consensus within the whole team. Indeed, as students we are well aware that a party can easily go out of control, causing people to sometimes take unnecessary risks by forgetting to use a condom for instance. The following morning, it can be difficult to remember what happened the night before. A STI diagnostic test can be very useful after such a night.
Afterwards, brainstorming for the biomarkers started. For STI, it was very convenient to use a blood sample rather than saliva. Even if blood sampling is considered as invasive, biomarkers are more abundant in this fluid, which is an advantage for detection tools.
Consequently, our project is to elaborate a rapid diagnostic test for multiple diseases and infections. It is simply a paper-based diagnostic test using a drop of blood. This test can be easily handled and used at home without medical supervision, the results should be rapid to obtain and easy to be interpreted.
STI, diagnosis, prevention, planned parenthood, HIV test... as many words we can encounter in our lives, as many words that scare us. Therefore we decided to go down this path to explore an unfamiliar topic. This approach revealed social problems as it is a taboo subject. Indeed in 2013, with 35 millions of people suffering from HIV, it has become a societal issue that needs more attention from the population and even from health professionals.
Our main guideline for the project is: to better fight HIV, it is crucial to diagnose it at the earliest. The “Gotta Detect'em All” project opens a new field of research about the primo infection detection, using a biomarker that has never been used before: the HIV reverse transcriptase which can be detectable only 15 days after the risky night (against 3 months for the currently available HIV self-test). Moreover this project fits in the current research trends about the fight against HIV: the development of antiviral therapy to improve the life of HIV seropositive people and the development of molecules to reduce the risk of transmission. 60% of the transmission is due to a hidden epidemic (people who ignore their seropositivity). Early diagnosis is now considered as a major prevention instrument to stem the propagation of HIV.
For such a project, the human practices conscience deals with the 7 following statements:
Ethics : an auto-test as a prevention instrument: Embedded ethics and weekly meetings to identify the main issues of our project and to share our personal thoughts: how can our diagnostic device be integrated to prevention policies?
Public engagement, from prevention to medical support: by meeting and interviewing on the field with main actors of STI diagnosis and treatment (nurses, doctors, health professionals).
Acceptability: medical support as a priority
Prevention: Prevention is the root of the fight against HIV, we designed a prevention poster and displayed it on the campus.
Social Justice, simple design for an easy use: redaction of an instructions guide for the test.
Education: Educate future responsible engineer
Scale-Up and market analysis: presenting our ideas to potential users with a survey and a meeting session with future students.