Integrated Human Practices
Throughout our project, we have implemented the Human-Centred Design Framework into our Wet Lab and Human Practices. This allows us to put the focus on IBD patients and make sure that our solutions and community outreach campaigns not only address their medical conditions but also holistically improve their life qualities. In turn, we are also inspired by their life experiences, which have served as the sources of motivation for our determination to tackle this difficult disease. In addition, we also consulted leading experts in the field to make sure our project is informed by the most recent understanding of the disease. Overall, our Integrated Human Practices campaigns have greatly shaped the direction of our project and maximized its potential influence. This page includes some of the work that has directly influenced the development of our wet lab project. Please also check out other sections under the Human Practices tab for our education and outreach campaigns.
Patient-centred perspectives on IBD treatment
Together with Thessaly, we identified 2 questions that are important for the development and implementation of our projects:
- What are some of the limitations of current IBD therapeutics and from the patients’ perspectives, how should novel biological therapeutics help ameolirate their symptom and improve their life qualities?
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have made tremendous contributions to the modern society. However, there is still a lot of hesitancy regarding the safety of GMOs. We wonder how well are GMOs accepted in the general public and what are some of the specific safety concerns.
We were tasked with Question #1. IBD impacts individuals to different extents in all aspects. As such, treatment plans need to be carefully designed in order to reduce each patient’s unique set of symptoms. Over the summer, we met virtually with a number of IBD patients to discuss their daily struggles and life challenges. In particular, many of them voiced their concerns about their current medications, which often lead to unwanted side effects and complications.
Certain treatments include immunosuppressive biologics that the body may reject or develop resistance towards. Having the body react erratically to the treatments that professionals suggest poses a risk of unintended side effects in the trial-based approach to treating IBD. The patient we spoke to has pursued multiple avenues of treatment, including different brands of anti-inflammatory biologics. Although the patient initially responded well to the treatment, they soon developed severe complications. It is suspected that the drugs used in the treatment suppress the patient's immune system and lead to opportunistic viral infections - a prospect that continues to be investigated.
These information, which has been shared with Thessaly, have greatly shaped the development of our project. We decided to move away from the traditional focus on immunosuppression to targeting one of the root causes of IBD, the AIEC bacteria. The information has also provided great insights for Thessaly, especially with regards to patients’ sentiments towards novel biological therapy. Meanwhile, Thessaly conducted comprehensive surveys on GMOs. The information regarding the surveys can be found here.
*This section was written based on answers given by a current patient experiencing Crohn’s disease through an interview style process. Permission has been granted by the individual and reflects their personal observations and experience.
Consultation with Leading Experts in the Field
We had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Brian Coombes, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Biochemistry. Dr. Coombes provided us with feedback on our wetlab project and we managed to discuss our different modelling approaches for the targeted elimination of the AIEC bacteria.
We had the opportunity to talk to John F. Rawls, a microbiology professor from Duke University. Dr. Duke provided us with feedback on our wetlab project and we managed to learn about microbiological approaches in biochemistry
In August 2021, we presented our project at the BioTec Create Workshop. We also shared cutting-edge synthetic biology techniques for creating novel biological parts and systems. The workshop brought together Canadian biotechnology design teams and provided a platform for exchanging innovative ideas in the field.