Our integrated Human Practices try to integrate our efforts into the practical aspects of our project, and have an influence upon our design decisions. We attempted to engage with potential users to better understand their needs, ranging from safety to access, to inform their technical design criteria.
To determine how our project can be used and who will be using it in order to assess its impact on society, we have connected with and conduct research among those work in laboratories, factories or companies which might use the engineered bacteria in researches or production process.
We chatted with the CEO of BluePHA, Li Teng, and explained our project, with the goal of collecting information on what is the most important thing to be considered in companies and to tailor our project for industry. BluePHA is a biotechnological corporation that masters the leading technology of using special bacteria to produce a low-cost biosynthetic biodegradable material, PHA. Dr. Li told us that extreme microorganism is actually a hot issue as many researchers are trying to find out useful bacterial species with proper characteristics and their specific applications. In fermentation processes with these extreme microorganism as the bioreactors, it is less likely to face with the problem of contamination. However, when talking about the application prospects of our project, he admitted that our robust E.coli is supposed to be more universal because the things we work on can also be applied to other species for the production of various bio-products. Plus, they are still no solution to tackle the problem of phage infection. Meanwhile, it is suggested that we should figure out how serious the contamination problem is among the practical process, from lab scale to full production scale.
Guangdong Institute of Microbiology
We met and consulted Shi Qingshan, a researcher studying on breeding and fermentation technology of industrial microbial from Guangdong Institute of Microbiology, about the problems and current solutions of bacterial contamination and phage infection in the factories. According to Shi, in practical production processes, raw material will be sterilized first while air filter and heater are also equipped to reduce pollution. Sometimes the factories will be set up at higher places in order to keep themselves more clean.
During the communication, Shi suggested that we should find a balance between the resistance function and the yield of products when employing our robust E.coli. As for this concern, we believe that any new technology need time to become mature. Our project provides a way to reduce workload for those working on the microorganisms. Perhaps it is not yet productive enough to compete with the well developed strains, we will spare no effort to develop it through practical application step by step.
Guangdong Jiujiang Distillery Co.,Ltd.
Guangdong Jiujiang Distillery is famous as the China's largest enterprise in soy sauce-type liquor production scale. Some of our team members were given a tour of their winery and facilities. We were introduced the making process of rice wine, which made us have a better understanding of the control points in industrial production. We were pleased to talk with the vice technical director Mr. Songgui He and several other managers about how our project could be applied in practical scale. They told us that they actually simultaneously made use of few microorganisms for fermentation in open culture. Therefore, rather than controlling the completely sterilized environment, they are now focusing more on how to control the population of different microorganisms in different periods during the fermentation process. Their feedback got us thinking about other promotion of our projects.
Shandong Nameide Bio Technology Co., Ltd. is modern high-tech biological enterprises who is committed to bio cellulose research and development, production and promotion. We raised some questions that sent by TUST_China to workers in Nameide Biotechnology. We then got feedbacks that this company employed square shallow plate as the bioreactor but they still followed strict sterility regulations in the production. It is indicated that they invested a lot of capital in achieving 100-thousand-grade cleaning for avoiding bacterial contamination.
Considering biosafety issue in cell factory, we tried to do something. Since the background of our project were remarkably similar to NPU-China in fermentation. Our team organized current laws and regulations related to factory emissions, especially for gene safety-related emissions in several different countries or regions, and concluded loopholes in current laws and regulations. NPU-China teams searched out the biosafety jobs done by previous iGEM team. And together, we summed them up as a report, and searched several methods to pure gene safety-related emissions.
Click Here to see the report.
To investigate the severity of bacterial contamination and phage infection in labs of iGEM teams and their current solutions, as well as their opinions towards some relative problems, we conducted a survey among iGEMers from 23 teams of China.
Click Here to check the result of the survey.
We have learned something from the collected questionnaires……
a) The bioreactors employed by the invested object teams varied from each other. Most of them employed E.coli, and few used yeast while others used Cyanobacteria, Gluconacetobacter xylinus, Lactococcus lactis and so on.
However, over 90% and about 35% of the teams had encountered the problems of bacterial contamination and phage infection in labs, respectively.
b) More than 70% of the labs relied on regular laboratory sterilization (UV, ozone, etc.) and strict control of laboratory environment and operation to prevent the problems. Meanwhile, the use of antibiotics also accounted for 34% as a solution.
Over 60% of the iGEMers admitted that it was quite troublesome to deal with the problems of undesired species in their lab for the reason that these methods were costly and time consuming. It is not surprising that most of the teams showed their expectation and interest in our project for providing them a robust strain.
c)When asked about the opinions to antibiotics, most of them encouraged use with caution, and some even considered the problems of antibiotics resistance and ethics.
d) Almost 90% of them believed these issues were critical in factories, and neatly 70% thought that fermentation process in open culture may contribute to low cost. Therefore, our project should have vast application prospects.
To further promote our project, we organized and participated in several conferences this year. We are glad to get valuable suggestions and feedbacks.
iGEM Southern China Regional MeetingTime: April 29th Location: Shenzhen University
We participated in the "iGEM Southern China Reginal Meeting" organized by Shenzhen University. Through this meeting, we learned about the projects and progress of other participating teams in South China and exchanged views with them, and the tutor of Shenzhen University iGEM team also provided valuable advice to our project.
The Seminar with Peking UniversityTime：May 21st Location：SCUT
We organized and participated in the seminar with the instructor instructor Zhang Hao Qian and advisor Zhang Yihao of 2017 iGEM team from Peking University. Both of them are experienced iGEMers and the teams they led all got excellent results. Mr. Yihao Zhang mainly introduced the projects in Peking University in previous years and shared the story of how he grew into a team leader, and the other interesting things during the competition.
Through this seminar, we knew about the project concept, team building, experimental work and project improvement, as well as the effort of them to transform the iGEM project results into academic achievement. They also gave us valuable advices on organizing team members and allocating tasks effectively, and so on. As a new team, we were inspired a lot and realized that our own project should be improved in many aspects.
Asia-Pacific conferenceTime: July 31st–August 5th Location: NCTU, Taiwan
From Jul 31st to Aug 5th, our team attended Asia-Pacific conference held by team NCTU-Formosa About 20 teams participated in the conference. During this conference, we learnt about plenty of exciting ideas and got so much useful help.
This year is our first time participating in iGEM, so we attach great importance to this conference. We started preparing for our presentation one month before this conference. On Aug 2nd, We presented our project, and received lots of feedback to improve our project design. Most importantly, in the Q&A section, the questions raised by other teams referred not only about the project design, but also extended to consideration about safety issues, which gave us a lot of inspiration.
In addition, this conference has played an important role in deepening the friendship between us and other teams. We communicated with each other and learnt from each other.
Conference of China iGEMer CommunityTime：August 26th-28th Location：SCUT
We took part in the CCiC held by FAFU-China in Fujian. Over 300 iGEMers from about 50 teams from all around the country participated in the conference. Special guests including Prof. King L. Chow from HKUST, Prof. Kenneth A. Oye from MIT and Dr. Luping Xu, the deputy director of Open FIESTA, and so on, made splendid and inspiring speeches about the relation between their jobs and synthetic biology.
All of the teams presented their projects and discussed with each other. We greatly enlarged our horizons by sharing ideas with other teams and we felt inspired about the questions they raised in the Q&A part. One of the audiences asked how do we ensure the undesired bacteria would not survive with the nitrogen and phosphorus provided by our robust E.coli. For this concern, we have designed an experiment that introducing other bacteria into the medium and have them grown together with our engineering bacteria to test its function. Some teams mentioned that they sometimes suffered from the failure of the experiments because of the phage infection, so we conducted surveys among the iGEM teams to investigate the severity of bacterial contamination and phage infection in their labs and other relative problems. See our SURVEY results here .
We were excited to find that some of the team projects have relationship with ours to some extent, so we exchanged our ideas more deeply with the hope of building up collaboration with each other.