Team:Heidelberg/Human Practices

Human Practices

Colorful iGEM. Colors illustrate diversity, opinions, hopes and concerns. Combining colors in a positive way can give rise to beautiful images. Towards our vision of a healthier, greener and sustainable world, our science is only one dot in the image. We must consider the complex interplay of colors: Reach out, listen, talk and educate. In this spirit, we first hosted an inspiring public lecture by Kevin Esvelt, the inventor of PACE, sharing his vision of truly socio-scientific projects in context of CRISPR gene drives. Then, we went to TEDx Heidelberg, engaged with the people via the game “evolutionary wheel-of-fortune” we created and discussed their hopes and concerns. In addition, we worked intensively with the next generation of scientists, our high school students. Here, we spread the news on synthetic biology in an iGEM seminar at a local high school and hosted a school class from Berlin for a course on responsible genetic engineering in our lab. For public outreach, we created a set of both educating and entertaining videos bringing the concept of evolution and our project of accelerated, directed evolution right to the interested public community.

Human Practices - Silver Medal Criteria

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We collaborated with many iGEM teams during the course of our project. Thereby, we engaged in a bi-directional exchange. On the one hand, we cloned constructs for the iGEM team Freiburg, provided help to other iGEM teams (PCR First Aid Service) and many more. On the other hand, we performed an inter-lab study to validate the performance of our mutagenesis plasmids.

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Engaging Experts

High impact projects with consequences affecting whole humanity should always be discussed with professionals from different scientific backgrounds. To meet this goal we talked to theologists, legal professionals, safety representatives, astrophysicists, and experts in the field of medicine, agriculture, information technology and many more. Check out the professionals who shaped our project!

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Although phages are volatile and challenging to work with, it is feasible to handle them safely provided that they are handled with good laboratory practice and great awareness. To do so, we informed ourselves about environmental and personal protection measures and created special phage-spaces in the lab to reduce contamination risk.

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Inciting interest of young people to shape the next generation of scientists is a core mission of our Human Practice activities. We held an iGEM seminar at a local high school and hosted a school class from Berlin for a course on responsible genetic engineering in our lab. On top, we educated a high school student for a two weeks internship at our lab.

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The iGEM competition inspired us to reach out, listen, talk and engage with the public. In this spirit, we hosted an inspiring public lecture by Kevin Esvelt, went to TEDx Heidelberg and engaged with the people via our game “evolutionary wheel-of-fortune” and our “Synthetic Biology Wishing Box”. Finally, we created an animated video, explaining evolution and our project in a broadly comprehensible way.

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Developing and improving powerful and high impact techniques in the field of directed evolution requires responsible scientists. To encounter ethical concerns and ensure that our project is not endangering the environment or humanity we thoroughly confronted ourselves and experts with critical questions according our iGEM project.

Human Practices - Gold Medal Criteria

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Engineering Cycle

We applied the Engineering Cycle in our project design. However, Foundational Advance Projects should consider even more aspects for an integrated concept. Therefore, we created an extended Engineering Cycle by including Safety and the encouragement to use our technology responsibly.

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In vivo directed evolution by PREDCEL and PACE is a powerful technology that gives rise to nucleic acids and proteins with novel functions. To prevent unintended evolution of hazardous proteins each parental DNA sequence is scanned for similarity to pathogen-derived sequences, toxins or other harmful sequences in our SafetyNet.

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Talking to medical, agricultural, chemical and other professionals pointed out the broad spectrum of applications for our directed evolution approach by PREDCEL. We selected organosilicons as major application with high ecological and medical potential.