Sustainable Development Impact

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs are integrated—they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.[1]

As responsible and visionary iGEMer, we believe that we should apply our project and its great potential to the SDGs and contribute to the future well-being of people and the planet. Therefore, based on the UN's classification and description of SDGs, we marked and singled out our project's contributions to the SDGs.

Fig.1 SDGs that we are involved with

SDG 3.4

By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.


Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

Our project this year is itself a project to improve premature death related to Non-communicable diseases through treatment and promotion of physical and mental health.

We use synthetic biology and genetic engineering to modify intestinal probiotics for adjuvant therapy of IBD patients in remission and treatment of refractory IBD patients. At the same time, we combined the results of fecal metagenomic sequencing and patient diet records to customize the drug ratio for patients, so as to achieve the purpose of precision medicine. This substantially reduces premature death from IBD.

At the same time, we pay attention to the physical and mental health of patients. Each part of our project will include psychological consultation, patient communication community, diet record, fecal flora sequencing report and other functions. At the same time, we want to pay attention to the needs of patients, especially in daily life. Therefore, based on our understanding of patients, we carefully designed the drug form, stool sampling device and other related hardware under the premise of humanistic care, hoping to show our care and concern for patients. To further integrate our vision, we hope to integrate the above functions into a highly integrated online health management platform that can enhance the ability of people to manage their health risks.

Fig.2 Demo of the Health Management APP

Of course, as an iGEM team with only one year to complete the project, IBD is only the first step in our ambition. Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, we hope that in the near future, based on this project, we will be able to build a global, especially developing and newly industrialized countries, a synthetic biology-based treatment platform for intestinal microbiome-related diseases, benefiting different populations in different regions.

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By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

In our survey of the project, we found that although the incidence of IBD in China and other developing countries are still relatively low compared with western developed countries, it is gradually developing at a fast growth rate. At the same time, the social cognition of IBD in China is low. Many IBD patients have mild symptoms or no specific symptoms for an extended period of time. The appearance of these typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is often difficult to attract the attention of patients, resulting in difficulties in diagnosis and treatment of patients.

To this end, we hope to arouse public awareness of IBD as a chronic disease in different countries, especially in developing and emerging industrial countries, according to the guidelines of SDG4.7. At the same time, considering that IBD tends to occur in young and middle-aged groups, we decided to actively popularize knowledge about intestinal health and IBD among adolescents and children, so as to truly prevent the occurrence of IBD and thus serve the goal of sustainable development.

In terms of public education, we first released an intestinal health questionnaire to the society to prove the necessity of intestinal health knowledge education with solid evidence. In order to promote the spread of educational activities and achieve better educational effects, we combined intestinal health knowledge with traditional Chinese culture to hold the Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern riddle activity, which is an important traditional festival in China. The riddles and answers of lantern riddles will be combined with intestinal health and knowledge, while carrying forward the traditional culture of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and popularizing intestinal health knowledge to residents. It calls on people to pay attention to their intestinal health when they are keeping a Western diet. The event was very popular, and nearly 200 residents came to join us. At the same time, in the preparation process, we tried to restore the rules and details of the traditional lantern riddles activity, pasting the colored paper, writing riddles with Chinese calligraphy, who would have thought that this activity is so closely combined with modern scientific knowledge!

Fig.3 Tickets for the Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Riddle Event
Fig.4 Photos of the Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Riddle Event

In the education of teenagers and children, we have designed different education plans and supporting materials for teenagers of different ages.

Early childhood is the critical period of good personality and intellectual development, as well as health knowledge education. Moreover, compared with adults, children's intestinal barrier function is poor, often prone to digestive system diseases. Data shows that more than 38% of children are bothered by intestinal problems, such as indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. As such, intestinal health education for children has become an integral part of our practice.

This summer, we traveled to Chaozhou and Shantou, two relatively underdeveloped cities in Guangdong, China, to conduct two educational activities for children there. There are three main parts to teach children about intestinal health. In the first part, we tell stories about the importance of washing hands before and after meals, and teach the scientific ways of washing hands in seven steps. In the second part, we divided the children into six groups and had a puzzle game of intestinal flora made by the team. The children were enthusiastic and completed the puzzle in groups. Finally, under our guidance, they learned the concept of bacteria and viruses, as well as the existence and significance of different intestinal flora. In part three, we share our homemade picture book on gut health with our children, explaining how to prevent common digestive diseases. We ended the course happily in the question and answer activities.

Fig.5 Group photo of education activity

Our materials are also designed according to the cognitive characteristics of preschool and school-age children. The lively and lovely style is loved by children. They treasure the small gifts we send and say they will take them home to their parents. We will also print our QR code stickers to children, hoping that children can guide their parents to pay attention to our official account, access to more information related to us.

On top of that, after much thought and design validation, we created an IntestiNO card game, taking into account how card games and board games are popular with most teenagers. IntestiNO is a card game designed by us to teach about intestinal flora. Following the basic gameplay of the traditional UNO, it highlights the concept of the gut microbiome in our team's IBD project this year. We have drawn cute little bacteria man, hoping that players will pay attention to the existence and significance of intestinal flora during board games. To illustrate to the public, one of the ideas of our project is that we still have a long way to go to understand the importance of gut microbiota and pay attention to human gut health.

Considering that UNO has a large number of players worldwide, and IBD currently has a higher incidence in Western countries such as Europe and the United States. So to bring on an Even wider audience, with the help of several other teams, we translated the IntestiNO into many languages, including parts of the developing world. Currently available languages are English, Japanese, French, Dutch, Kazakh, Norwegian, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Russian, Korean, Bulgarian, Turkish, Indonesian, and Marathi. We also invited the publicity Department of the Student Union of the College of Health Science and Technology to participate in our card sorting and typesetting work. We sent the translated cards to the teams involved in translation work and hoped they would be able to take on the IntestiNO in their countries.

Fig.6 The finished product of IntestiNO card
Fig.7 Logo of translation teams


By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

In our clinical investigation, we contacted many IBD patients and related medical staff. We know that IBD has a long period of onset and is prone to recurrent attacks. Repeated diarrhea from the disease, as well as the emotional burden, the financial burden of expensive treatment, and the reduction in quality of life caused by a strict diet, can be extremely disturbing to patients.

However, due to the low incidence of IBD in developing countries, the low level of social cognition may lead to difficulties in integrating patients into socio-economic and political life. Experts noted that IBD patients have an urgent pursuit of quality of life and high demand for living habits and emotions, which requires society to be aware of the disease promptly and give adequate care to those unfortunate enough to suffer from the disease. In our traditional concept of health, "the absence of disease is health." But in the World Health Organization's latest definition of health, "health is not only the absence of physical disease, but also mental health, social adaptation and moral." Therefore, modern people's view of health is holistic health, that is, to meet the "physiological, psychological and social" health factors. Inside and out, we should see more!

Therefore, following the guidance of SDG10.2, we believe that we must pay attention to the natural and urgent needs of IBD patients and strive for their equal rights.

To that end, we created our WeChat public account szuigem. As one of the most popular social media tools in China, it already covers more than 94% of smartphones in China and has 806 million monthly active users!

We came into contact with a Crohn's disease patient from Anhui, China, and we had a lot of communication with him online. He only received junior high school education, with his simple style of writing to us slowly narrated his story. We learned about the impact of the disease on his life. His story is so typical, and what he experienced seems to be representative of IBD patients, but his strength and optimism also profoundly affected us.

After obtaining his consent, we recorded his story with IBD in a non-fictitious writing and put it on our WeChat public platform. By his narration, we recorded that we hope to arouse the public's awareness of this disease, attract more people's attention to IBD patients, and bring care and help to IBD patients.

On World IBD Day, 19 May 2021, we also launched a tweet to inform the public about IBD in a more accessible language.

Fig.8 Cover of the World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day tweet

To our delight, in the past year, szuigem posted a total of 26 tweets, including a series of tweets on project interpretation, IBD disease science, patient stories sharing, and iGEMer's daily records, which were read 9,067 times.

In addition, to give people a deeper understanding of IBD, we collected credible information according to the survey results of the questionnaire and the common questions raised by the crowd. After all these, we designed and compiled IBD popular science picture book after the review of professional doctors.

Finally, in order to serve IBD patients, improve the quality of health education for IBD patients, and pay attention to the daily life of IBD patients. Under the guidance of clinicians, we wrote IBD propaganda leaflets and distributed them to hospitals for patients to read.

Fig.9 The tri-fold brochures



By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

As a genetically engineered strain, especially probiotics used for intestinal colonization therapy, it can be foreseen that the strain may enter the natural water cycle as the host's feces are excreted into the sewer. Due to potential genetic and biosafety issues, the release of gene-editing bacteria into the natural environment should not be allowed, either for the iGEM competition itself or under the relevant emission standards.

Therefore, as a responsible innovation team, we hope to follow the guidance of SDG12.4 to realize the harmless existence cycle of project-related waste and significantly reduce its possible negative impact on human health and the environment.

To solve the problem that the engineered bacteria may be excreted into the external environment, we used the promoter PT-αcrp that can respond to the change of glucose concentration by taking advantage of the difference in glucose concentration between the human intestine and the external environment. To avoid any potential risk, we do not want any bacterial contents to escape upon cell death, we chose to use the mazF gene, which encodes an endoribonuclease that cleaves RNA at the ACA site and causes microbial death, mediating cell suicide but not causing bacterial cell lysis. The promoter Pt-αcrp controls the expression of the subsequent suicide gene mazF gene. The engineered bacteria leaks out of the gut, and when glucose levels are low, it turns on the expression of a gene that kills itself.

In addition, adhering to the principle of responsible innovation, we have collaborated with seven other teams to provide a pioneering standardized solution to the iGEM team/scientific community called "Intestinal Program Reference Manual." This reference protocol is based on the problems that intestinal projects may encounter, as well as the common problems that we have found in advancing our projects, which more or less plague teams involved in the intestinal environment.

In particular, we wrote the biosafety section for the potential escape of intestinal engineered bacteria, and summarized the efforts and explorations made by our predecessors. Including L-Arabinose-Glucose operon regulation of suicide mechanism, tetracycline regulation of suicide mechanism, carbon dioxide concentration regulation of suicide mechanism, one-way PET and two-way PET regulation of tetracycline regulation of suicide mechanism and so on, we hope that our summary work can make more contributions to responsible innovation under the guidance of sustainable development concept. It is also hoped that the ideas and awareness of synthetic biology will play a greater role in both scientific and non-scientific circles.

Fig.10 Cover of the Intestinal Program Reference Manual

[1] Sustainable Development Goals | United Nations Development Programme. (2021). Retrieved 7 October 2021, from