Human Practices Gold
This year MSBT covered a wide range of projects regarding human practices in order to achieve a holistic approach to our project. We considered public engagement, education, integrated practices and safety when thinking of our project, a diagnostic tool that could help save thousands of life across the world. All of these activities came to be interconnected in some form or another which contributed to the strength of our project.
Public Engagement and Education
To begin, we participated in and created public engagement activities in which we sought to establish dialogue with kids, teenagers and parents who had a concern or interest regarding synthetic biology. We accomplished the purpose of promoting synthetic biology through our participation in the Building with Biology event at the Michigan Science Center and the Ann Arbor Health Hacks as well as through the GISE and Biotechnology camps we organized.
We then spanned out to create bigger projects that could be reached and used by more people. To clear any misconceptions and common myths of the field, we designed and curated a Q&A-style site, which also served the purpose of promoting and educating on synthetic biology.
In order to reach out to other IGEM teams, we created a Bench-to-Bedside guide—a model business guideline—in which we describe how to take a diagnostic test from the laboratory to the real world. This guideline can be used and built upon by future IGEM teams to expand their projects and make a difference in the world.
You can read in more detail about each of our activities in our engagement tab.
Any project must have solid roots and be viable in order to be able to implement it in real life. To achieve this, our team was sure to meet with health professionals both involved in the field of tuberculosis and/or synthetic biology, which helped shape the direction and concept of our project from its scientific concept in the wet lab all the way to its possible implementation as a market product. Our team consulted with the president of the Relief for Africa foundation, Rama Kannenje, who indicated the prevalent need for point-of-care diagnostics. Additionally, experts like Grace Hsia, the CEO of Warmilu, brought to our attention the widespread poverty in countries where tuberculosis is endemic. During our participation in the Ann Arbor Health Hacks we also met with many health professionals who contributed ideas that improved our project.
You can read in more detail about how we implemented professional’s opinions into our project in our integrated practices tab.
Starting with the simplest of safety principles in the lab and moving up, the team was able to assure a safe design phase as well as provide an environmentally safe final project. Conventional laboratory safety procedures as mandated by the University of Michigan’s department of safety and common good practice were followed. When considering the hazards posed to organisms by the project, E. coli was the only organism used. Even then it was only included as a cloning and expression agent, and never left the wet lab. Also included in our design is a theoretical bio-part that would ensure that the project’s DNA cannot spread into environmental organisms using DNase. This part could be applied broadly in future synthetic biology projects as a self-erasing kill switch that cannot damage the protected DNA of other organisms.
You can read in more detail about safety issues regarding our project in our safety tab.