Team:Concordia-Montreal/Human Practices

Human Practices | iGEM Concordia-Montreal

Human Practices

Human Practices

We are maintaining last's year approach to Human Practices: 1. Connect, 2. Exchange, and 3. Integrate.

Building a socially responsible, sustainable, safe, and inclusive Astroyeast System!

Reflection, Responsability and Responsiveness

We decided to use the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals as a guiding mechanism to oversee the impact of all our initiatives in society. Additionally, as a continuation of last year, was at the forefront of our project.. In fact, we followed GE3LS framework developed by Genome Canada, and were the first undergraduate group to do so. During this process, we consulted with Dr. Brandiff Caron who is a science and technology ethicist.

Similarly to the Real Time Technology Assessment (RTTA) which we implemented in 2020, the GE3LS framework allowed us to step back and reflect on the broader effects that our project might have. While for the most part both ethics tools that we explored covered similar points, although it was done from different approaches. This allowed us to explore our project from different perspectives.

View the GE3LS Framework

Integrated Human Practices

Human practices played a central role in the success of our project. It allowed us to see how our project could impact society along with any ethical repercussions that may arise from its implementation. Additionally, it allowed us to identify current gaps in the field to be aware of while performing our experiments, along with current needs. Ensuring that our project does good for our society and that what we are trying to do is actively solving a problem are core components to human practices that we tried to address in our interviews and our application to the Canadian Space Agency's Deep Space Food Challenge. Our human practices work also helped guide the design of our bioreactor though allowing us to determine clear constraints to work around. These points are further discussed below.

Deep Space Food Challenge

One of the biggest influences on our project's design was the Deep Space Food Challenge hosted by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA. The goal of this challenge was to come up with a viable source of food for astronauts in long space missions. Our team applied to this challenge and developed our solution based on constraints provided by the CSA. These constraints heavily influenced the design of our bioreactor by placing limits on, for example, energy and water consumption, along with limiting the size of the device and ensuring that it is automated enough to limit the crew time needed to operate it. These details are further discussed in the hardware section. Additionally, the CSA project played a major role in the framing for AstroYeast. Last year, our microgravity tolerant yeast was marketed mostly as a way to allow for biomanufacturing. However, through the CSA project, we decided to move away from solely biomanufacturing and broaden our horizons towards food production. This is why the bioreactor is designed to collect, sterilize, and dry yeast into a paste that can be eaten. This increased the level of complexity as the yeast not only had to taste good,but it also had to be nutritious. For this reason, our genetics team decided to focus on (l)-limonene as a proof of concept, as this would be used as a flavour molecule to enhance the palatability of the yeast for astronauts. While our proof of concept can still be improved, we have been successful in producing the molecule in yeast. Furthermore, when it comes to nutrition, we investigated what and how much nutrients the astronauts needed as part of their diet. We began research into the production of vitamin A as a possible proof of concept as well.


For the design of the bioreactor concept, our discussions with Dr. Marcel Egli & Dr. Tim Granata from Lucerne University were extremely helpful. Their expertise in bioreactor and space biology gave us useful insights on some of the issues that could come with designing the bioreactor and how to avoid them. They shed light on the type of media we could use and guided us towards using hollow fiber filters for proper oxygenation of the media. They advised us on the appropriate cell concentrations to ensure proper growth. We then integrated these ideas into the design of our bioreactor. When it came to the design of the 3D clinostat, meeting with Dr. Ibrahim Babiker, whose advice was central in the development of our model for the 3D clinostat. We used his advice to be able to determine what ratio of frame speeds to use in order to most accurate simulate microgravity.


While the majority of our genetics interviews took place in the first year of the project, which served as the design phase for the genetics aspect of the project, we still gained useful insight into some issues that microgravity researchers are facing today. We met with Roxanne Fournier, an expert in space nutrition. From her, we learned about some of the limitations of trying to evolve organisms in simulated microgravity. This is mostly due to the fact that simulated microgravity is not the same as actual microgravity and this is due to the difference in shear forces. This interview allowed us to understand the difficulties in our research and where the knowledge gaps lie within the field. One of the major gaps was standardization, in which our microgravity tolerant yeast strains and microgravity reporters would try to solve, allowing us to see another possible application of our project. Other than her scientific expertise, she also directed us towards some funding opportunities.