Human Practices - Gold and silver
Considering the fact that two Cystic Fibrosis clinics couldn't stay open because they lacked the necessary funding for operation (estimated over $300k), and the operation of these clinics is solely funded by the Israeli Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, we had to take action for the sake of the CF patients. From a Social Justice standpoint, from our perspective, it doesn’t make sense that CF patients, and patients in general, need to depend on donations, versus the health and social care of the state, to which they pay taxes. Therefore, we decided to initiate the First CF Awareness Statewide Campaign in Israel called the “65 Roses Campaign”.
The story behind this project starts with a little boy named Ricky Weiss, who in 1965, overheard his mother talking about the disease, earnestly endeavoring to raise funds for research. Ricky confused the sound of Cystic Fibrosis with 65 Roses (sound out sixty-five roses in your head to make the connection). Since then, the international symbol for the disease has been the red rose. To incorporate this recognized symbol, we asked 65 famous influencers, including 5 Nobel Laureates, politicians, actors, singers, Olympic athletes and Science research figures from all over the world to help us promote awareness. Each influencer took photos of themselves holding a red rose in hand and posted the photos on any social media channels including television, with the goal in reaching a larger audience and raising awareness for the disease to make strong impacts on the patients’ lives and their communities. Other i teams also participated in the project, and sent us group photographs with a rose in hand. e wholeheartedly believe that with the support of famous influencers, and other iGEM teams, we can help raise awareness and eventually help the CF patients breathe. You can see below in the Human Practices section other projects we initiated and managed for the sake of the CF patients.
Max Born once said, “science cannot stop while ethics catches up, and nobody should expect scientists to do all the thinking for the country”. Since our project is about gene editing, we realize how important it is to interview and ask the hard ethical questions regarding our novel project. Therefore, we met with and interviewed some of the most prominent bioethicists in Israel:
- Professor Asa Kasher- bio
- Professor Hanoch Slor-Bio
- Dr. Efrat Tiktin-Bio
You can read here about our meetings with them.
Sustainability and Environmental Impact
We are aiming to reduce the waste currently being produced by treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, other genetic diseases, and the pharmaceutical industry at whole.
Our goal is to produce a one-time treatment that will replace the current 80 pills in average being taken on a daily basis by the CF patients. Our vision is to make the patient’s body dependant on itself only. While over 70,000 people take dozens of pills each day, the amount of waste being produced worldwide will decrease significantly. A 2009 study by researchers from University of Chicago, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the American healthcare sector accounts for nearly a tenth of the country’s carbon emissions. We can do more than simply cure patients with Cystic Fibrosis, we can also reduce our carbon footprint worldwide.
The scientific basis for our project is the creation of a delivery system for the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method to epithelial cells of the lungs with the goal of efficiently correctly the disease-causing mutation F508. The delivery system itself is composed of 5 subunits of the Cholera Toxin, being the ⅚ of the toxin which is not toxic itself! The toxic A subunit is substituted for a plasmid containing the treatment, therefore allowing attachment to the cells’ receptors and utilizing the physical qualities to our advantage, without imposing any safety hazards.
In addition, the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method is known for its specificity, therefore allowing the specific fragment of the DNA to be fixed, without causing many additional changes, if at all.
Provisional - Intellectual Property
As we continued to make progress in developing the idea, we understood the need to protect our intellectual property, in order to make sure our idea could not become public knowledge. If our idea will not be protected the pharmaceuticals company will not commercialize the idea, as it will not be able to block future competitors from commercializing same idea, thus, not getting the full potential of revenue from sales of our idea, and maybe even not covering its expenses in the development of the idea.
Regardless of intellectual properties, our main goal as scientists is seeking knowledge. We have learned so much from writing as undergraduate and graduate students our first provisional, and got exposed to the world of biotechnology from the aspect of property rights.