When starting to develop a solution for the problem, an important aspect which needs to be covered is to understand how one’s project influences the people connected to it. The development of the solution to the problem identified should be For the people, By the people and For future generations. Such people are identified as stakeholders of the project. The needs and norms of the stakeholders are taken into account to develop the solution for the problem. This year we have identified the problem of Solid cancers and how grave the situation is when we talk about the treatment and accessibility. That itself has been the motivation for us to develop BLAST and we have approached the stakeholders to get the following questions answered-
- How will the individuals perceive our project ?
- How can we modify and develop our project so as to make it feasible ?
- How can we commercialise our project ?
- How can it be developed as an effective therapeutic ?
- How will the project be received by the users as a therapeutic in real time applications ?
When developing a solution, one should not only be focused on developing a solution by experiments, but should be sound of the potential environmental influences as well. An invention is only successful when the inventor uses effective communication and considers the perspectives of the stakeholders because these people might have a different idea about the solution for a particular problem. For our solution to be impactful in the society we had to be aware of who will be our stakeholders, what are their perceptions and ideas. Since the starting of our project, we have focused on approaching and engaging with the stakeholders in the best way possible.
IRMO of Stakeholders
IRMO stands for Identification, Reaching & Management of stakeholders and O stands for a One-line summary of what we intended and what we gained from approaching a particular stakeholder. In identification we identified the stakeholders of our project along the course of its development and as directed by the iGEM guidelines. We prepared a detailed list of people and their areas of interest and specialization. In reaching, stakeholders were approached via email for discussing particular aspects of the project, where we introduced ourselves, our project and our purpose of meeting them. In the management section, the constraints imposed due to Covid Pandemic, most of our meetings were held online which we used to our benefit by approaching people from most of the areas of the country. The outreach has been done with complete ethical norms. One line summary simply summarises the purpose and gains we acquired from meeting.
The following points briefly describe IRMO of all the stakeholders in our project.
- Interview with doctors:
Considering the person who prescribes treatment and aims to cure the person with a malady, doctors are considered as main stakeholders.
Our teammates personally took the interviews from doctors so as to understand how the therapy is administered in real time and what are the common complaints brought up by people with cancer to the doctors. This helped us to ideate over the project and to see how safe and less problematic therapy we can develop.
They were contacted mostly via phone call and as we understood their valuable time they have been supportive and thorough in providing us information. The questionnaire was shared with them beforehand and in the meeting we introduced ourselves and gave an explanation of the project to gain perspective about how our solution can be effective.
Doctors made us understand about the currently available therapies for cancer and how our therapy can be effective over others.
- Interview with Researchers:
Considering the scientific aspects of our project we definitely needed guidance from scientists specializing in fields associated with cancer and bacterial therapies.
We went through the Indian Cancer Research Database to get information about investigators. After getting the contact details we emailed them to get insights about the project.
The purpose of the meeting was defined in the meeting along with an overview of our project and it was explained to the investigators thoroughly and their suggestions and criticism was later on compiled and shared with the rest of the team so as to infer the changes. Some scientists like the authors of the papers whom we contacted mostly responded to our queries via email.
The idea we were working on was validated by the researchers and their suggestions were also incorporated in our project.
- Interview with Cancer patients:
People who are declared cancer free and those who are still undergoing treatment are considered as valuable stakeholders, who have a perspective of the problem and understand the implications of our project on other people.
The people we approached were mostly cancer warriors and they were approached by the team members on an individual basis.
The interviews were conducted on Google meet and the people were assured that their identity will be kept confidential and hence we tried to conduct the interviews as ethically as possible.
Contacting cancer patients to understand why we are doing this project and what its implications will be since their inputs of experience helped us understand what to aim for.
- Contacting with Corporate Sector:
People in sectors which specialised in developing therapeutic bacteria and cancer drugs were approached so as to develop our solution as an applicative therapeutic.
We tried to approach them through various platforms like Linkedin, emails,etc.
The project was explained to them and they helped us gain insights in aspects like dosage composition, number of bacteria to be administered, safety concerns while administration of the bacteria and what formulations can be used to prepare the bacteria.
Contacting the Corporate sector helped us gain insights in converting the therapy to an effective therapeutic drug and developing a business model for commercialising the therapy.
- Approaching the General Public:
General public comprises almost all of the human population which forms a valuable stakeholder whose criticism and review will be of importance to our project as well as to know how much the public is sound of the problem of cancer and what can be done to improve the same.
Since, we wanted to approach a huge chunk of the population to know about their inputs over cancer, we prepared a survey known as ‘Cancer awareness survey’.
The survey was vetted by the professors so as to keep it aligned with the iGEM and ethical guidelines. A detailed analysis of the survey has been provided below.
Contacting the General public by awareness survey gave us an idea about whom we are doing the project for and what will be their perception about our idea.
We designed our survey in accordance with the guidelines proposed by iGEM HQ. Hence, informed consent and privacy/data protection were highly important to us and we got them approved by a professor working in the field of surveys from the Department of Economic Sciences at our institute. Also, our survey design had to be specific and unambiguous, so as to not compromise accuracy by insinuating a “correct” response to any question. The participants volunteered to participate in our survey. Our survey was an anonymous survey and also any personal information like email address, name, location, etc. was not recorded. Our survey was designed to help us improve our project and give insight on the public perception towards new therapies and Synthetic Biology. The survey was published on the iGEM collaboration page, social media forums, our institution, our partner institution (IISER Mohali), etc.
The survey covered a number of topics including prevalence and awareness about cancer, application of our therapeutic drug in the real world, knowledge and perception about bacteriotherapy. Overall, 202 people participated in our survey, which was created in both Hindi and English to ensure inclusion of maximum people.