Integrated Human Practices
Global Perspectives Outreach Overview
Many iGEM teams seek to contextualize their work by getting input from professionals who have been working in the field for years or even decades. However, once teams gather this information, they put it in their Jamboree presentation and on their wiki, but after that, the information sits unused. The goal of this effort was to collect information about the future of the biomanufacturing industry and research from major stakeholders in science and beyond. To do this, we recruited other iGEM teams from around the world in order to establish a common set of questions to ask people from several fields that are essential to the proliferation of biomanufacturing (e.g. academia, business, public policy,), and recorded the answers we got from experts around the world. We wanted to understand how people in different parts of the world feel about the promise, feasibility, and drawbacks of biomanufacturing, so the we needed to have as many teams from as many places as possible participate in this effort. The questions we compiled were general enough that any biomanufacturing-related project could make use of them. We hope that future teams will continue and expand this effort, building off of the questions and answers we have assembled here. Eventually, we would like to see a massive effort to standardize the way iGEM teams get input from expert sources, almost like a survey version of the Interlab Study!
Thank you to all the iGEM teams who participated in our global effort!
This survey was a first attempt at starting something that will hopefully grow and become more rigorous over time. The results that we collecter are not “statistically significant” and we cannot make any sweeping generalizations about the future of the field based on this survey, but there were a few prevalent trends among the answers that we received to the survey. In general, the respondents felt that the major barriers to progress for biomanufacturing are cost and efficiency. Furthermore, there is a generally positive outlook on the future of biomanufacturing. 80% of survey members who identified themselves as academics felt that biomanufacturing will eventually outperform traditional manufacturing techniques.
Here are a few representative quotes to express some of these sentiments:
❝ [Biomanufacturing] requires larger seed investments to set up, so it’s a risky business area in comparison to traditional manufacturing, for which most of the logistics are already in place.
❝ Scale-up and demonstration of either equivalency or superiority to traditional routes of manufacture. Cost and environmental advantages also need to be demonstrated.
In response to the question "What do you predict will be the direction of the field of biomanufacturing going forward in terms of new applications and its potential for wider implementation?"
❝ Wider implementation could be challenging if the current techniques work and are 'good enough.' There is a big hurdle to changing what works (even if it's more expensive to implement than something new).
❝ The only place where bio based production have an advantage long term, large molecules with several chiral centers.
The results of our survey indicated to us that synthetic biology needs to be incentivized with lower financial costs for research and development and enriched with more productive techniques. This motivated us to pursue our low-cost bioreactor and microfluidic device. Wet lab and genome engineering work is only one part of synthetic biology. The logistical factors like access to equipment are equally important to the progress of the field, and we wanted to highlight that.
We would like to thank the teams from Aalto-Helsinki, AQA Unesp, Hamburg, Linkoping Sweden, RPI Troy NY, Stony Brook, and UPMC-Paris for their help creating and disseminating the survey questions.