At present, coral reefs all over the world are facing a massive crisis. According to the current trend, some scholars predict that all coral reefs will disappear by 2070. Although global warming is the most significant cause of the coral reef crisis, chemical pollution caused by human activities is also the culprit of coral reef bleaching. Research shows that inorganic and organic sunscreens have toxic effects on various marine organisms, including corals. About 14000 tons of sunscreen flow into the ocean every year, making the sea one of the crucial destinations of sunscreens. The production and use of marine-friendly sunscreen will significantly improve this problem, which is why we launched this project.
To ensure that we can sell the product in reality, we first consider who will become the end-user of our product.
Tourists: With the improvement of living standards, people’s requirements for skin quality have gradually improved. More and more people realize that ultraviolet rays will cause skin photoaging, sunburn, and even skin tumors~. To avoid being burned by the hot sun on the beach, sunscreen has become a necessary product for tourists to vacation and travel on the beach. In this case, it is almost impossible for people traveling by sea to give up using sunscreen, and our questionnaire also confirms this fact. However, most respondents also expressed their acceptance of environment-friendly sunscreen, so we believe tourists from the seaside will become our end-users.
Divers and surfers: Through the communication with divers, we know that in addition to tourists on vacation at the seaside, divers and surfers are also a group of people using sunscreen at the beach. Because they stay at sea for a long time, they often use sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Therefore, this part of water sports lovers should also become our end users.
Residents of countries and regions banning chemical sunscreen: At present, many countries and regions worldwide have issued a sunscreen ban, covering almost all sunscreen on the market, which makes residents living in these areas can no longer protect their skin by using sunscreen products. The sunscreen product we produce with gadusol as the functional ingredient is not within the ban and does no harm to marine ecology, so we can sell it in the areas where most chemical sunscreen is banned. Residents of these areas, therefore, become our end-users.
If we want to mass-produce our sunscreen, we also need the support of investors.
Therefore, we interviewed Longhui (Fig.1) and Lubrizol (Fig.2) cosmetics enterprises located in Guangzhou. In the interview, we learned that the products of these two enterprises contain cosmetics from "natural sources," and Lubrizol takes "green," "environmental protection," and "plant extract" as its brand image. The two enterprises’ heads said that consumers in domestic and foreign markets preferred cosmetics ingredients from natural sources in recent years. Products focusing on "green, environmental protection and nature" tend to sell more, and cosmetics manufacturers also began to pay attention to the environmental protection of raw materials and carbon emissions in the production process. The use of synthetic biology to produce components from natural sources is gradually becoming the mainstream trend.
Fig.1&2 Interview with Longhui Ltd.& Lubrizol Ltd.
Both leaders believe that the cosmetics industry will develop in a more natural and environmentally friendly direction in the future. They also think the marine-friendly sunscreen produced by synthetic biological means and using the natural substances in zebrafish will powerfully attract consumers. It will inevitably attract the attention of investors and enterprises.
In communicating with Miss Su (Fig.3), we learned that consumers in European and American countries are more receptive to environmentally friendly cosmetics than in the domestic market, which makes us think about the possibility of having our sunscreen products sold overseas markets. Subsequently, we learned from Manager Hu of Longhui that Amyris, a well-known synthetic biology company, showed great ambition in environmental beauty products this year. Its helm Melo even said: “hope Amyris become L'Oreal in environmental beauty and skincare industry,” such purpose is based on the tremendous success of squalene in overseas sales. Gadusol and the sunscreen using it as the functional component align with the development trend of environmentally friendly skincare products in the overseas market. Therefore, they are likely to be favored by overseas investors and enterprises.
Interview with Miss Su
Considering the safety of consumers and environment, we should also conduct a series of experiments to ensure the safety of products.
Toxicology experiment: According to the provisions of China's laws, there must be a series of human safety experiments before the registration of new cosmetic raw materials can be filed. To facilitate future iGEM teams, we compiled guidance.
Coral reef safety experiment: Although there is no issued law requiring sunscreen producers to do coral reef safety testing at home and abroad, we think we have the responsibility and obligation to test our products and convince consumers. We will base our experiments on the coral safety experimental model of Stien  to ensure that our products are harmless to coral.
Fig.4 Coral Incubator In Laboratory
In the future, we will cooperate with Associate professor Liang from the School of Marine Sciences, Guangxi University, to verify it (Fig.4).
Aquatic organism hazard detection: The safety experiments required by Chinese laws do not include harm testing for marine life, but we believe that this is essential for an environment-friendly sunscreen. After consulting a large number of relevant literature , we decided to use the method of calculating risk quotient (RQ) to evaluate the harm of sunscreen ingredients to aquatic organisms, then made the following table as the summary of marine organism hazard detection:
RQ: Risk quotient
a: Risk associated with QR.
b: Risk associated with comparing 1/10 EC50 with the highest concentration detected in environmental matrix.
c. RQ ≥ 0.5 indicates high risk; 0.05 ＜ RQ ＜ 0.5 indicates medium risk, and RQ ＜ 0.05 suggests low risk.
Cosmetic efficacy evaluation experiment: In addition to the above two safety experiments, for the finished cosmetics, we will divide the follow-up cosmetic efficacy evaluation experiment into three parts based on the law, Supervision and Administration of Cosmetics (Fig.5):
· Vitro experimental methods include physical chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, skin model substitution, etc.
· Vivo experiments mainly include human experiments and animal experiments.
Note: Although animal experiments have been canceled in some foreign countries, new raw materials for synthetic biology production in China must undergo animal experiments before being put into the market.
· Sensory evaluation experiment is a particular type of vivo experiment. Subjective claims such as the skin feeling of cosmetics mainly depend on sensory evaluation to verify them. Sensory evaluation of cosmetics mainly includes visual evaluation, olfactory evaluation, and tactile evaluation, respectively relying on visual, olfactory, and tactile evaluation to evaluate cosmetic appearance, color, smell, and skin feeling. Sensory evaluation methods can be divided into scale tests, descriptive tests, preference tests, etc.
Fig.5 Supervision and Administration of Cosmetics
Although we have considered many problems and proposed solutions, our project still faces other challenges.
First of all, due to the limitation of iGEM competition cycle and the outbreak of COVID-19 this year, we did not have time to do the large-scale fermentation of gadusol, but this is essential for the subsequent application, in order to better implement our project to reality, we first have to make fermentation optimization and scale-up of fermentation.
In addition, We found that there have been sunscreen products and brands with biocompatibility as the main selling point on the market through relevant information search. The sunscreen market and marine environmental protectors also believe that marine life-friendly sunscreen will become a new sunscreen trend in the future. In this case, how our products should gain competitive advantages among all environmentally friendly products and how to make further breakthroughs and improvements in sunscreen effect and biocompatibility will become a significant challenge in the project's future.
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