Human Practices Summary:
The team contacted two groups in our community that would be impacted by our project; local dairy farmers and a micro-distiller. By contacting local dairy farmers we were granted an insight into how our project be applied in their work. A biosensor that can detect antibiotics precisely, quickly and inexpensively would take great pressure off farmers, who would worry that their home tests were inadequate, causing penalties from regulatory authorities. Our goal to create an easily accessible biosensor for antibiotic contamination in food products such a milk would provide a benefit to producers in less developed or regulated countries to test their produce with an ultimate goal to reduce antibiotics in the human food chain. With methanol poisoning still a worldwide cause of death and disability, producing a similarly inexpensive and accessible biosensor for methanol could save lives. Both deemed our projects ethical and of potential benefit regarding regulations and healthcare.
Integrated Human Practices:
Environment & Sustainability
We believe that our project would in the long run be a more eco-friendly alternative to the some of the “use and throw” tests currently employed by our target market. The slider device which is used has a rechargeable battery and our overall system will not result in any biohazard released into the environment. The slider device can be reused continuously so will add to the sustainability of our product.
Upon contacting local dairy farmers, we were informed that even if there is accidental contamination of milk (for example when one farmer’s cow managed to drink a bucket of anti-biotic contaminated milk that was due to be discarded!) or through a faulty detection test, the farmer will incur heavy penalties. Our product aims to be more accurate and inexpensive to prevent unjust costs on these farmers. We also determined that by making a more accessible test for methanol, we could allow more entry to the market as some regulators won’t allow the alcohol to be sold without a safe test (testing by taste was not exactly an approved method!). As identified by BordBia, taxation alone impedes entry to the market to starter companies, so any way to lower the cost can help.
We skyped iGEM teams in Newcastle and Exeter, and exchanged information about cell free systems and our methods with EFPL Switzerland.
Integrated Human Practices
We got in contact with a representative from Anú dairy who provided us with in depth information about the regulations in Ireland and the EU around the testing and production of antibiotic free milk. He also provided us with feedback on what his company would think of our project. This new shareholder came to see our lab and the work that we were doing there, so that he could report back and see what his colleagues in the company thought.
Outreach and Community Engagement
Team members Chloë, Ellen and Brandon joined up with the Cell Explorers, a community who’s aim is to get children at primary level interested in biochemistry. After being trained by the Cell Explorers from NUIG, the Cell Explorers from UCC attended the local Glasheen Boy’s school to show them how to extract DNA from bananas, and teaching the boys the basics of cell biology. Our team also gave informative talks to our own Universtity students, speaking the members of the school of pharmacy and school of biochemistry on different occasions about what our research entailed. A poster of the mathematical modelling results was presented to the college of Science, Engineering and Food Science in UCC to encourage mathematical students to consider bioinformatics.