Over 3.5 billion people were affected in 2016 alone by some dental problems (Oral Health). Despite a common misconception that children have these conditions more often, adults are more likely to skip annual checkups and, consequently, have untreated dental disease more frequently (FastStats - Oral and Dental Health). The majority of dental problems is related to caries, which affects over 2.3 billion people (Oral Health). Our iGEM project addressed caries development in all ages and genders, both by educating people on the importance of oral hygiene and by improving the oral care process. To analyze SALSASMILE’s impact on society, economics, and the environment, we revised World Health Organizations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in correlation with our project.
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Majority of dental problems relate to caries, which affects over 2.3 billion people (WHO). Our iGEM project addressed caries development in all ages and genders, both by educating people on the importance of oral hygiene and by improving the oral care process. To analyze SALSASMILE’s impact on social, economic and environmental aspects, we revised and consulted World Health Organizations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We develop an innovative oral hygiene product – a protease solution that specifically cleaves the anchoring points for bacteria on teeth – to fight caries, the most widespread dental disorder affecting 2.3 billion people worldwide. As caries can lead to serious health consequences, overcoming it is of utmost importance. As professional dental health care is expensive and not available for everyone, providing an affordable solution for preventing caries would improve health everywhere and reduce inequalities.
Our team sent out surveys through relevant media outlets to address dental healthcare stakeholders, the general public, and dentists. Responses from dentists revealed aspects that specifically interest them and their patients, as well as provided us with first-hand information about how prevalent caries is. On the other hand, information from the public surveys showed the most popular trends in oral hygiene product administration and the prevalence of thorough tooth cleaning. After establishing favored product designs, we analyzed best-fit active ingredients not only on their activity but also their production cost and safety.
As the protease will quickly lose activity, our product will have negligible effects on both water and land ecological systems. This addresses potential negative interactions of SALSASMILE with SDGs 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land).
SDG4: Quality education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
To provide inclusive and equitable quality education, our team engaged with the public in multiple Estonian cities at festivals and science fairs. Our workshops were designed to include all ethnicities and linguistic groups, with protocols being in Estonian, English, and Russian, the three widely spoken languages in Estonia. We presented experiments to a broad audience of all age groups and incentivized learning through a safe “hands-on” approach.
In addition to approaching people in person, we wanted to give a possibility of online participation. For that, we created an online quiz with the aim of familiarizing people with synthetic biology. After passing the quiz, people received educational materials concerning every question to promote further learning.
Molecular and synthetic biology can sometimes be confusing to the public. To raise awareness in an easy-to-understand way, team NU_Kazakhstan suggested a poster collaboration. The outcome of this partnership is the creation of multilingual posters in Estonian, English, Russian and other languages. The posters educate the readers about the principles and methods in synthetic biology.
We also wanted to include first-year students of Science and Technology at the University of Tartu by creating an introductory laboratory course that all students could sign up for. The participants were a multinational and multicultural group of highly enthusiastic people, joined by an interest in synthetic biology.
Our local educational activities targeted not only university students but also primary and secondary school pupils. Collaboration with team CCU_Taiwan provided an opportunity to promote the Hygiene book that they composed. As our iGEM project is closely related to matters of hygiene, we gladly accepted the offer. Our team members, fluent in Estonian, translated the aforementioned book and distributed it in local schools to educate the younger generation on the importance of hygiene in everyday life.
Finally, our team set up an Escape Room that incorporated interactive educational tools to teach attendees about our project, the importance of oral hygiene, and the applications of synthetic biology methods.
Detailed information about education can be found in our Education & Communication .
SDG8: Decent work and economic growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
During the collaboration “Dragon’s Biome” with team KU LEUVEN our team researched business possibilities and future developments. To investigate the potential impact of our product, we read Paul K. Chaney’s work on “The Impact of New Product Introductions on the Market Value of Firms,” which explains the economic aspect of introducing innovation into a competitive market. It also describes the interest of consumers in innovative products presented to them and how it’s a consumer’s nature to express more attention to newer products. (Chaney et al., 1991). The effect of innovation and the value of an innovative product in hygiene and pharmaceutical industries are highly correlated with the increase in stock price and the profits of technologically advanced companies. Thus, innovation is driving the whole market value and promoting the segment’s economic growth.
Besides, sustainable expansion of the oral hygiene market requires continuous innovation of products and upkeep of active competitiveness. Thus, our project and idea can be utilized in a myriad of similar products, thus having prospects in growth to keep sustainable economic expansion of the oral hygiene market.
SDG9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Our dentist survey facilitated the creation of infrastructure between Research & Development, our team, and Transferrers/Buyers, dentists, and their clinics. Every participant is encouraged to leave contact information, giving a possibility for further correspondence. This would provide our project with additional feedback and knowledge on what possible customers and end-users may require.
While SALSASMILE can be considered the first fully enzymatic oral care product for human use, we present the innovative aspect in a familiar to end-users form, hence, using a known format and balancing familiarity and newness (Ozer & Tang, 2019). It helped us to improve on our project design, and such works helped in fostering innovation.
SDG17: Partnerships for goals
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
SDG’s are also about collaboration and rebuilding global relations around feasible development. With this in mind, we engaged with other teams to initiate partnerships serving sustainable growth.
In addition to the collaborations mentioned in SDG4 and SDG8 with teams CCU_Taiwan, NU_Kazakhstan, and KU LEUVEN, our team partnered up with Korea_HS. The first Global Diagnostics & Therapeutic conference reconnected us with all teams participating in the same track. The feedback given by our colleagues influenced our approach to developing healthcare products and gave a better insight into future challenges. On our part, we offered suggestions and inquired about other projects to provide an alternative viewpoint.
Chaney, P. K., Devinney, T. M., & Winer, R. S. (1991). The Impact of New Product Introductions on the Market Value of Firms. The Journal of Business, 64(4), 573–610. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2353294
FastStats - Oral and Dental Health.Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm
Oral health. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/oral-health#tab=tab_1
Ozer, M., & Tang, J. W. (2019). Understanding the trade-off between familiarity and newness in product innovation. Industrial Marketing Management, 77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2018.11.016