Team:Evry Paris-Saclay/Human Practices

IGEM Evry Paris-Saclay


What are Human Practices?

Beyond and alongside the scientific project, the human practices are the long story of the project building and the questioning about its applications in society. This essential part of the project allows the production of Biosystems that fit with current society issues considering people needs in a userfriendly and safe way. If the scientific project corresponds to the lab work, then human practices is the link between the lab and the society to gather people around the beautiful world of science and biotechnologies.

Human Practices is the study of how your work affects the world, and how the world affects your work.

Peter Carr, Director of Judging.

As you can see on our homepage project description, we focused our attention on a sugar with incredible properties: Psicose. This rare natural sugar containing nearly 0 calories slows down the absorption of other sugars and preferentially increases the catabolism of fatty acid. The only reason why this sugar has not yet broken the sweetener market is that it’s chemically produced and the yields are very low (See details on our Human Practice Part: Silver Page). Contrary to others natural sugars, Psicose is in too low quantity in plant to be extracted from efficiently. That’s why, we decided to resolve this yield issue using bioproduction in bacteria. The logical result was therefore to investigate the stakes of bioproduction and sweetener.

Feasibility and Legislation: Placing Psicose on the Market

After a rational period of brainstorming considering the feasibility and the limits of the project, we build an entire dossier with our lawyers to allow Psicose to be placed on the market in Europe (See details on our Human Practice: Silver Page). Unlike the USA and the Japan, Psicose is not yet permitted in France according to the European Commission. Our lawyers alongside our scientists filled up a file provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in the USA) by detailing the characteristics of Psicose in order to allow its commercialisation.

Make Bacteria Our Friends: Microorganisms Reputation

Dialogue under the human practices was especially important for this part. The use of living organisms to produce goods and services is not new. Men have, since the dawn of humanity, used microorganisms to produce fundamental or accessory goods such as bread, yogurt or alcoholic beverages. Yet, people are not familiar with bioproduction and even less with microorganisms whose reputation is often linked to pathogenicity. Thus, we have invested heavily in raising awareness around microorganisms’ diversity and their numerous applications (See details on our Education & Public Engagement Page) enlightening the history between humanity and microorganisms around bioproduction to ensure people that our project is safe and responsible.

Diabetes and Obesity: Healthcare Issues

Of course, given that we were proposing a bioproduced sweetener, one of our major concerns was the prevention of diseases related to sugar such as Diabetes. Overconsumption of sugar is directly linked to acute Obesity, Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even Dementia according the World Health Organisation. These diseases are also linked together: an obese person is 3 times more likely to be diabetic than a non-obese person. In a few numbers, the International Diabetes Federation estimated around 330 million diabetics around 2025 that to say 6,3% of world population (See details on our Human Practice: Silver Page). To address these kind of issues, our team naturally turned to prevention of such diseases using our sweetener: Psicose. As one of our Integrated Human Practices, we met in Paris, Mr. Bastien ROUX, business relationship manager of the French Federation of Diabetics, to discuss the relevance of Psicose in a prevention framework (See details on our Integrated Human Practice: Gold Page).

Industrial Application: Improvement of Bioproduction

Last but not least, still with the aim of producing a project that takes into account the reality of society, we had a discussion with Dr. Alain FOURNIER, head of the yeast genetics department at Sanofi-Aventis (Vitry-sur-Seine, France), about the current bioproduction methods in industry to fit in (See details on our Integrated Human Practice: Gold Page). We also asked about the needs of bioproduction industry to discuss possible improvement systems that we included in our project (See details in our Scientific Project Page). This gave birth to our bio-screening system allowing the screening of productive enzymes to select the best one through mutagenesis. This way, we would be able to pick the best Psicose producing enzyme to improve its bioproduction.

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