Human practice overview

Human practices aim to address the question: how will your project affect the world, and how will the world affect your project? Human practices is about expanding an iGEM project from the lab bench and out in the world, exploring the bigger impact of the research. As a team, we had to consider the safety and the environmental sustainability of the project and consider the ethical aspects of the work.

Human practices is divided into two main parts: Integrated Human Practices and Public Engagement and Education. Integrated human practices refer to the demonstration of how an out-of-the-lab exploration affected and changed the research and design. Public Engagement and Education involves engaging the society, raising awareness of your topic, educating and establishing a dialog with the community.

We believe human practices is a vital aspect of an iGEM project and not just a medal criterion to be checked off. Because of this, we decided to work since April to ensure our human practices is something we would be proud of.

In order to ensure that our product would be good for the world, but especially for our patients we reached out to doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, patients and their families to really understand the struggle behind the diseases. It became apparent that our product provides a not just a solution for an unfulfilled need, but treatment to the main symptom, that could potentially increase the life quality of the patient. By learning about their lives and listening to everyone surrounded by the diseases, we were able to take all their opinions into consideration when designing our product, PROlung.

Being good for the world, also means being safe and sustainable, for the people and for the environment. Safety has always been a key issue for our project. We always understood that if PROlung was to be released on the market, it would need to be safe and biocontained, both for humans and for the environment. We also learned from interviewing doctors how important safety is, as they would never want to prescribe anything that could cause any harm, or could be unsafe for the patients.

While working on our project, we also realised that there was no regulation for a product with similar characteristics to ours. Therefore, we felt the responsibility to write a policy on the basis of our project’s regulations, proposing how to regulate future recombinant live biotherapeutic products in the body. Later on we integrated this policy into our product development strategy.

Additionally, we wanted to give back to the iGEM community and created a human practices handbook together with previous successful teams, for new iGEM teams, to inspire and ease the start of their human practices.

For our Public Engagement and Education, we ran a campaign called “Democratic Biology” with the goal of making biology available - not just to the ones already belonging to the scientific community - but to everyone. We attempted to reach out to as many groups in the society as possible, by creating a series of events targeting different ages and levels of knowledge.

At Kids Hack Day, encouraging kids to explore biology.