Team:FCB-UANL/Human Practices

FCB:UANL Synbiofoam

  • Stakeholders - first contact We are well aware of the importance of contacting people directly or indirectly affected by the problem and learning from them.This year we decided to contact stakeholders from different backgrounds to get a complete perspective of the impact, utility and nature of both the problem and our proposed solution.
  • Feasibility analysis: reshaping the project Once we had the chance to talk to different stakeholders, we decided to brainstorm into what aspects of the project we could adjust, and how we could make the most out of the information gathered during our meetings. We came up with some ideas and evaluated their feasibility to be implemented to improve our project.
  • First reflexions After some digging, we started working in the new things about the project, and defined which experts we needed to contact to improve those ideas and activities.
  • Collaborations with teams and contact with experts Reshaping a project is not an easy task, but with the help of experts and different iGEM teams we were able to implement our stakeholders’ opinions and even go beyond by performing different activities with teams all around the world
  • Stakeholders - second contact Once we felt ready, we decided to go back to our stakeholders and talk about the changes we made, as well as about our new proposals. This experience further helped to reassure that the project’s new orientation was on the right track since stakeholders started feeling more and more engaged with the project. However, there were some stakeholders with whom we had contact through all the season.
  • Contact with communities As our constant communication with stakeholders continued to take place, we decided to reach out to a group of people who had not been contacted before: communities that had been affected by fires. Clearly, this was a hard task, but we proceeded with the utmost caution and followed all the advice given during the safety & security workshop given by iGEM ambassadors.
  • Reflections and evolution analysis Once we gathered all the opinions and insights, we analyzed how our project evolved from last year and answered the initial questions we had.

Fire incidents represent a latent danger to human lives and the environment, and they cause humongous economic losses due to deficient control strategies and the tools consumed during the event. Besides, they are not restricted to a specific geographic region; affected areas can be seen both at international and local levels. Proof of this is Mexico's northern region, which holds the two most important mountain systems in the country: the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental (1). Just last year, more than 5,000 fire incidents were reported by the local firefighters department only in the Mexican state of Nuevo León (2). Therefore, hundreds of species of the fourth most megadiverse country in the world (3), including endemic species, are exposed to the risks of unnatural patterns of destructive and frequent fires.

Even though our main concerns are forest wildfires, we cannot forget the millions of people who live around these ecosystems, in addition to the companies, private lands, and other infrastructure that have established near areas prone to wildfires. In addition to that, there is a concerning lack of efficient tools to combat fires, which makes them a bigger problem, since it is not uncommon to lose control of these incidents and have the surrounding cities affected. This is the reason why, after talking with stakeholders and learning more about fire incidents, we decided to broaden our approach and also include peri-urban fires, without neglecting our forestal concerns. In the following graph, we show the most frequent types of fire incidents in our region (1).


To properly lay the foundations of our project, it is necessary to thoroughly analyze each one of the perspectives to determine which fits best with our design. A social and ecological problem, such as the one we are trying to solve, is a complex phenomenon composed of different factors. We believe it is necessary to incorporate them all to design a concrete, achievable solution, thus, we decided to use a multi-centered approach, which would allow us to build a solution by taking into consideration all the interconnected necessities and not only segregated factors.

Once we defined the previous point and analyzed the feedback given last year, we started planning the information we wanted to acquire and how we could obtain it, along with an action plan on what to do depending on this year’s feedback. Our stakeholders' contributions have played an essential role to fulfill this goal, by helping us to improve it and propose new activities and components to better match the needs and concerns we identified along the process.


In order to make our project reflexive, responsible and responsive, and based on what we learned during the Human Practices Sessions on last year’s Giant Jamboree, we designed a plan to take as much information as possible from all our stakeholders to change or adapt our project. First, we elaborated a series of questions which would help us center ourselves on the information we wanted to obtain and how we would manage that newly acquired knowledge for improving our project. Thus, we made two main questions to help us defining our stakeholders:
[1] What should we be aware of while working on my project?
[2] Should we adapt, or change, or stop anything about our design following this exercise?

Once taking into consideration these initial questions, we then identified our main stakeholders, and, by using the information we already had and the feedback they gave us, we answered the following questions:
  • What types of actors or organizations may speak out about our design?
  • What may be their visions/arguments/opinions?
  • What values do they have or expect us to represent?
  • What feelings might they have?

Hence, we have three main concerns of all our identified stakeholders: opinions they have about both our problem and project, values that are important for them, and feelings for our proposal, and then we took actions for improving our project. As part of the multi-centered approach, we selected the following stakeholders, which are classified into different groups according to their characteristics. The OVF given by each stakeholder, along with the actions we undertook after the communication were documented.

Besides the information we wanted to obtain, due to the nature of our research we know the topic can be sensitive to some people. During this iGEM season we attended the iGEM values and risks workshop, where we learned how to contact people and what kind of considerations to take into account while talking with them. Additionally, we used the letter of consent proposed by team FCB-UANL 2020 (4) to establish the purposes of the contact and to make our stakeholders aware of the usage of the information shared with us. In each stakeholder, you can see their OVFA by clicking on the button on the right side.


Our first contact was with people responsible for administering public lands, also known as “ejidos”. These are big pieces of land usually located at the outskirts of cities and are mostly used to produce crops. Their size and surroundings make them prone to fire disasters. As a strategy to get in contact with them, we made an official application to a government department to gain access to the necessary information. The application was generated with the help of a legal counselor, and it was submitted to two different departments, the Agrarian Attorneys Office and the Agrarian Registry; you can see the document by clicking here. Unfortunately, the answer from both departments was that they could not grant access to that type of information since all contact and procedures are made in-person. Due to their location and the current sanitary situation, it was far beyond our possibilities to meet in person. Consequently, we decided to embrace a new plan. Since we live in a big city, there are a lot of ranches with cattle. Therefore, we contacted several of them and successfully got a response. In addition, we also tried to contact groups concerned about the preservation of our ecosystems. In this case, we used this contact to improve our project and to develop some education and public engagement activities.

Eng. Arnulfo de la Garza

He is the manager of the “San Juan” ranch located on Pesquería (Nuevo Leon), and he is primarily focused on selling and maintaining cattle. We contacted him due to his experience dealing with combat and prevention of fires, and we discussed the impact it can have in their work and techniques they have learnt to prevent it.

Mexico Scouts, Group 9

Scouts groups are part of an association whose objective is to teach important values to young people, such as respect and responsibility with nature, as well as encourage skills such as leadership, responsibility, and critical thinking in their members. We contacted them because we are sure their values match ours, and their perspective could give us interesting feedback regarding the preservation efforts made in our ecosystems. We made an educational activity (for more details go to our communication section ) and heard their opinions (reported in our education section) through some questions made to the assistants.

Brayan Cerón

He is a Forest Engineering student from the Instituto Tecnológico de México. We contacted him because of his knowledge both studying and working with fire prevention plans; he is actually working on a public land managing fire. We contacted him thanks to the SCIENCOPIC CONCYTEP iGEM Design League team.


The opinions and feedback from potential users and customers are very important whenever it is planned to launch a new product on the market. Thus, besides our market analysis carried out, we contacted several current foam users -or potential users- to acquire information to make a well established plan for upscaling our project. Something we noticed throughout this time were the difficulties to contact foam producer companies, since some of them actually told us they did not have interest in Mexico as a potential customer; this gave us some insight regarding how it is not easy to acquire foams for Mexican firefighters.

Eng. Marco Vergara

He has known our project and given us feedback since last year, and we decided to follow up his contact due to his vast experience working with local fire departments and firefighters preparation. Also, he and his team Rescueteam Mx’s social and safety approaches match perfectly our project values and interests, since they develop activities regarding firefighters rescue and fire prevention to raise awareness on the population.


We talked with Eng. José Luis Loaiza from AMEREX, an American company settled in Mexico recognized as a world leader in the manufacture of fire control equipment. Since last year, they have been following our project progress and giving us feedback regarding the technical requirements our foam has to have to be offered in the market. Since we have no foam producers in our country, AMEREX has been of vital importance for us as a lead distributor of these tools. Just like the case of Eng. Marco Vergara, AMEREX is another stakeholder with whom we recontacted from last year, because of their wide expertise,and it is the closest organization to foam producers for our country.


BIOEX is a firefighting foam concentrates manufacturer company. For us, BIOEX insights are very important because, due to the lack of foam producers in Mexico, we had a lot of difficulties contacting foreign companies. They are a leading company on foams production, along with the fact that one of their goals is to produce eco-friendly foams, perfectly matches the type of company we want for giving us their opinion about our project. We talked with Oliver Houlbert, BIOEX Managing Director.


As a project intending to solve a local problem, we have learned the importance of analyze how our project could be actually implemented, and one of the first steps is to know the proper regulations to take into account for two main reasons: to ensure our product is effective, and to accomplish all the requirements to be sold in the market.

UL (Underwriters Laboratories)

UL defines itself as a global safety science leader, their role is primarily to help companies to demonstrate safety, enhance sustainability, strengthen security, deliver quality, manage risk and achieve regulatory compliance (5). We got to know them due to AMEREX and Eng. Marco Vergara (stakeholders) advice. Our first approach was with with Claudia Sama, Latin America regional manager, and María Lafano, international standards manager. After that, due to the interest they had in our project, we continued having regular meetings throughout the season.

MSc Aida Juarez Cruz

Former member of SEMARNAT (Environment and Natural Resources Secretary), the office of the federal executive power in charge of guaranteeing sustainable development and environmental balance.


Regarding the technical part of the project, it is very important for us to be sure every aspect was considered to minimize the risk of getting unfavorable experimental results. That is the reason we reached out to many experts from different areas to better define all the aspects that had to be taken into account and listen to their valuable opinions from their expertise areas. From synthetic biology topics to fire safety and ecology, we heard a lot of interesting opinions shown below.

Dr Citlali Cortes Montaño

She is a Mexican ecologist with a master in forestry and a PhD in forest Science. Right now, she is working with planning and implementing projects regarding forests and biodiversity. We decided to contact her because of her expertise regarding fire ecology and her previous work in Mexican forests.

MSc Ediner Fuentes

He is our advisor in biosafety and biosecurity activities, as well as in Mexican and Latin American regulation regarding synthetic biology and biotechnology. He has a Master degree in Environmental Microbiology and is the Co-Founder of “The Bridge Biofoundry" a consortium of Latinamerican laboratories of innovation in biotechnology focused on sustainable manufacturing.

PhD Sarah Yannarell

She is a PhDc in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina. We contacted her because she has worked with B. subtlis and sporulation-related processes; as they are very complex regulatory networks, it is very important for us to know the opinion of an expert on this field.

LBG Mario Peña Hernández

He is a genomic biotechnologist from our university, and is currently studying his PhD at Yale; Mario participated in iGEM in 2013, on the UANL high school team. We decided to contact him to obtain feedback on our killswitch design, because he is one of the few people that have worked with CRISPR at our university, in addition to their knowledge of the competition and the criteria we have to accomplish.

MSc Carolina Montoya Vallejo

She is a biological engineer at Universidad de Antioquia. She has structured multiple models of kinetic growth in bioreactors, and has expertise in biotechnology. We contacted her while we were still deciding which models were the best for our project.

BSc Eduardo Alejandro Castillo Aguilar

He is a mathematician who graduated from our university last year. We contacted him because of his creativity, dedication and knowledge of several programming languages, and his experience elaborating math models. We had continuous contact throughout the year with the objective of improving our model; also, he answered all the questions we had during the development of the project.


After receiving all the feedback and analyzing the OVFA from our stakeholders, we re-analyzed the initial questions and gave them answers, noticing and understanding how our project changed. For this purpose, we summarized the work done by FCB-UANL team last year and how the project evolved for this 2021.

  • What were we aware of while working on SYNBIOFOAM?
In order to achieve an optimal functioning of the foam when the firefighters (i.e. users) use it, we had to be sure we clearly indicated the correct concentration to apply the formulation as well as the range of temperatures at which the foam worked. to better shape our proposed implementation and have the optimal version of the product for the market. Something our stakeholders were afraid of was the nature of our foam, because of the little research on using biomolecules as surfactants for this application; hence, we reached out to the Underwriters' Laboratories team and they shared this view; since they told us that our project is a totally new concept and new challenges may arise from it. However, facing new challenges represents for us an opportunity to conduct more detailed investigation regarding different aspects of the foam such as its physicochemical characterization, novel design on the industrial production system GMO permissions and regulations to follow. Last but not least, we also learned how little people know about the ecosystem and its importance, so we increased our efforts in this matter through our education and communication activities.
  • What did we adapt, change, or stop about our project?
Regarding the molecular part, a CRISPR/Cas9 killswitch system, which will be used to prevent the formation and release of GMO spores, was designed based on the development of a new and more complete risk assessment. The sporulation issue was also considered on our math model since several models were built to complement each other, as suggested by MSc Carolina Montoya Vallejo. With respect to the final product, we decided to recommend the usage of the foam as a complementary contention method for the initial market entry, considering the economic difficulties our potential customers may have. Also, thinking of the cost analysis, and with the aim of reducing our foam price, we came up with the implementation of other industries’ waste as our raw material for the industrial production process (further explanation is provided in our math model section). Finally, to strengthen the added value of our product, and concerned by the worry of endangering human lives through firefighting, we decided to develop the design of an autonomous drone with sensors to locate and combat fires.

After analyzing the general evolution of SYNBIOFOAM, we here compile the main points of our stakeholder’s impact on the project.

  • What types of actors or organizations we talked with?
We divided our stakeholders into four main groups: [1] affected communities, which involved people managing lands in risk to be affected by a fire incident, or making prevention and ecosystem preservation efforts; [2] customers and potential users to get to know our market necessities; [3] regulatory authorities to consider the biosafety, biosecurity and policy aspects of our product; and [4] experts from different fields such as synthetic biology, math modeling, fire ecology, B. subtilis, and even policy, education, and pedagogy to incorporate their insight.
  • What were their visions/arguments/opinions?
In general, we received positive opinions, and most of the people we spoke to expressed their openness to working with GMOs or GMO-derived products. Besides getting to know their stand on the matter, we received highly valuable feedback to improve everything we could from our project. To incorporate their perspectives, we elaborated a more complete risk assessment, proposed an autonomous drone as the proposed implementation method, worked on our business model, and made improvements in our science communication activities.
  • What values did they consider important?
The values that prevailed as the most important among our stakeholders were listening, empathy, respect, responsibility, excellence, honesty, perseverance, critical thinking, creativity, and teamwork. Thus, we decided to consider them when building and performing our communication activities to reflect them.
  • What feelings did they have?
Curiosity, excitement, and interest. However, many stakeholders also expressed their concern and recommended to keep researching.


From all the people we talked to, there were three main stakeholders that helped us throughout the year; they got to know our project from the beginning of the season and we had continuous feedback on how to improve our project, who are the following:

Eng. Marco Vergara greatly helped us to know the real needs of the market. It was very helpful for us to know that, unfortunately, the environmental factor is not decisive when it comes to choosing the best foam. Hence, we decided to add some other features to make our product both attractive and competitive for the potential customers, where our main outcome was the design of the autonomous drone. For this matter, he also gave us some insight regarding the main points we had to take into account to apply the foam, and regarding the temperature and other conditions in the fire, a further explanation is provided in our proposed implementation section.

We also recontacted one of our last year’s main stakeholders, AMEREX, the main firefighting foams distributor in Mexico, so they have seen our project’s evolution from the very beginning.Their feedback has significantly helped us shape our project, besides the fact that they offered us their laboratories to make the fire tests required and gave us some information regarding the physicochemical characterization we need to do previous to those tests; consequently, we decided how to assemble the pertinent protocols for our proof of concept and engineering success. In addition, their feedback led us to search for regulatory authorities regarding foams certifications.

In this way, we contacted Underwriters Laboratories, the international regulatory organism for firefighting foams, because of their important role certificating and regulating firefighting foams worldwide; we started participating on webinars they offered in order to learn more about fire safety, and to establish contact. On our first approach, we talked about our project and they showed a lot of interest, so they gave us insight on many areas of the project, such as safety and security (further explained in our safety section), education (their role is explained in our communication section), and also contacting other stakeholders.

They invited us to their event "Day of the firefighter in Mexico" where the importance of firefighters, their activities and the firefighting strategies they execute were discussed, and we also presented our project to experts in the fire combat area. This gave us the opportunity to receive feedback from Juan Arellano, founder of the Celaya Emergency Training School, Héctor Elorriaga, commander of firefighters in Mexico, and Wilber Fletcher, member of Underwriters Laboratories. Some of the questions and suggestions received helped us shape our entrepreneurship, safety and proposed implementation areas. Both experts and viewers showed interest in our sustainable product, as a possible alternative in the market.


One of the most important things we noticed with our meetings with stakeholders and experts was how much we had to learn, so we got involved in some webinars and asked our stakeholders for different resources such as documents, books, and other information sources to learn more about all the areas of the project. We even developed an educational activity for our younger team members, which is further explained in our communication section. Specifically, for our human practices activities there were two main workshops that helped us shape our approach.


We attended this course organized by Biologist Gloria Edith Pérez López, who has an extensive knowledge of environmental rights and management supported by the Center for Legal and Environmental Studies, A.C. (CEJA) and the University of Chile. During this conference, we were introduced to the current environmental legislation in Mexico, as well as private and state institutions and international agreements involved. We also learned about the challenges that come ahead for Mexico in the future, and how we can take a step forward in order to solve them. Even though we did not propose a law improvement, understanding the most important things that have to be taken into consideration for the regulation of our product helped us improve the plan for the characterization tests and the risk assessment.


We attended this workshop organized by iGEM ambassadors that focused on exploring and highlighting information such as ethical dilemmas and projects safety and responsibility that are essential for our project development. With the help of interactive dialogue and brainstorming, we learned about important concepts which we integrated into our general process to contact stakeholders. After attending this course, we developed a plan on how to contact affected communities to talk about fire incidents considering it is a delicate subject, we also made sure to notify all our stakeholders how we were going to manage the information they gave us. This was the main reason why we decided on contact potential affected communities instead of already affected ones, because of the sensibility of the topic due to the recent wildfires that have affected them.


(1) López de Llergo, R. (2003). Principales rasgos geográficos de la República Mexicana. Investigaciones geográficas, 50, 26-41. Bomberos de Nuevo León. (2020). Estadísticas.

(2) Jiménez Sierra, C.L., Sosa Ramírez, J., Cortés-Calva, P., Breceda Solís C.A., Íñiguez Dávalos, L.I. & Ortega-Rubio, A. (2014). México país megadiverso y la relevancia de las áreas naturales protegidas. Investigación y Ciencia, 22(60), 16-22.

(3) FCB-UANL. (2020). Synbiofoam: a synthetic alternative to fluorosurfactants.

(4) Underwriters Laboratories. (2021).