Through our collaborations, we not only received and sent help for our projects, we shared experiences, challenges and perspectives about synthetic biology and issues around our world.
iGEMxSDG Impact Challenge and Conference
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of seventeen goals that the United Nations aim to achieve by 2030 (United Nations, n.d.). These universal goals address the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges in the world to achieve a better future for all (United Nations, n.d.). Some of these goals include improving health and education, reducing inequality and poverty, spurring economic growth, and tackling climate change. A full list of all SDGs and subgoals can be found here. The United Nations calls for all countries to help tackle these goals in a global partnership.
Figure 1 - List of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, n.d.).
SDGs were first introduced into the iGEM community in 2019 by the Costa Rica, TAS_Taipei, and Tuebingen team to spread awareness of the goals. This year, we took the SDG impact one step further by focusing on action on top of promotion. We organized an iGEMxSDG Challenge & Conference to encourage all iGEM teams to take action on these urgent global challenges.
Because SDGs are universal goals, we did not only focus on the relevance of SDGs to an individual team, but rather challenged teams to target these goals on a global level by making tasks for one another. Each teams’ tasks targeted specific subgoals for one or more SDGs. With the collaboration of completing tasks across different continents, we directly targeted SDG #17: Partnerships for the Goals. We further spread awareness of SDGs by encouraging teams to post SDGs relevant to their project on social media using a template we created and nominate other teams to participate.
Figure 2 - Our Instagram post template used to nominate other teams to participate in the challenge and spread awareness of the SDGs.
We had 26 teams across 16 countries participate in this challenge. For each participating team, we uploaded all their information onto our website by creating a website tab for each team. The website, which also includes more details about the challenge, can be found here. An introduction video for the challenge created by our team can be seen below.
Figure 3 - Diagram of extensive collaboration among 26 teams showing which teams completed which teams tasks.
On September 18th, we held a virtual conference with all participating teams and discussed how we tackled the SDGs. During the Zoom conference, teams split up into breakout rooms to present and discuss their projects.
Each team presented a presentation, which included the following: Project description, Team’s target SDGs, Tasks that the team assigned to other teams and how those tasks target SDGs, Description of the tasks the team completed
After each team presented, there was a Q & A session along with a discussion.
Figure 4 - iGEMxSDG Impact Conference
Figure 5 - Members of our team presenting conference introduction slides
Figure 6 - Members of our team presenting our 4-minute presentation
iGEM EPIC, the Entrepreneurship Program Innovation Community that supports the development of iGEMs entrepreneurial community, reached out to us and requested to join our iGEM x SDG Impact Conference. The vision of the program is to become the driving force behind hundreds of SynBio based start-ups globally to help accelerate the transition to a more sustainable bioeconomy. They were very enthusiastic about our conference as they believe that infusing the spirit of entrepreneurship into feasible SynBio projects that work towards achieving the SDGs will help build a strong and sustainable SynBio startup ecosystem. They stated that projects orientated towards SDGs are in high demand in the entrepreneurship market as the problems of SDGs are universally recognized. The Head of Asia Pacific EPIC Committee, Onkar Date, joined our conference and gave a presentation on the iGEM EPIC program as well as their vision of incorporating SDGs into it. He further listened to presentations of several iGEM teams and engaged in discussions with us.
Figure 7 - iGEM EPIC presenting at the conference
Figure 8 - iGEM X SDG Impact Challenge statistics
The main activity of the conference was creating tasks that relate to your team’s SDGs for other people teams to complete, as well as completing tasks from other teams. The first task we developed for other teams to accomplish is to distribute our Synthetic Biology educational website to groups with limited access that can be found on our website to encourage the elimination of discrimination in education. This task was completed by iGEM Team Thessaly. One of the groups they sent our website to was Mrs. Chatzipli, a professor that teaches juveniles in the Volos Prison Facilities in Greece, who exclaimed how organized and informational our lessons were. She thought our website was a really great way to provide access to education around the world. Our second task was to put us in contact as well as gain the consent of an individual who regularly receives blood transfusions for their condition. We hope that by speaking with this individual, we can better understand the importance of transfusions and its role in preventing premature mortality.
Beyond targeting SDGs for our own project, we took the initiative to help other iGEM team’s tackle their SDGs as well. The first task we completed was for iGEM Team Calgary. Their project, Neocycle, focused on developing an innovative system for recovering rare earth elements from electronic waste. Their project targets SDG #7 Affordable and Clean Energy, as well as SDG #17 Partnerships for the Goals. The task that we completed was in response to goal #7.A: enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology by connecting the team with an electronic waste recycling facility in our region.
Thus, we contacted SDTI, Taiwan's largest electronic waste recycling institute, and provided their website and contact information to Team Calgary. In the process of searching for electronic waste recycling facilities, we learned the importance of rare earth elements in electronic products and how important it is to promote sustainable recovery of these resources which directly targets goal 7.A. The second task we undertook was for iGEM Team Saint Joseph. Team Saint Joseph project, Cellulophile, focuses on degrading the top water pollutant, paper waste, with a genetically engineered enzyme to prevent water borne issues. Their project targeted SDG #6 which ensures clean water and sanitation. Their task, to distribute their google form about the use of biotechnology, directly targets SDG subgoal #6.3, as we draw attention to the need to help people reach clean water, bioremediation, etc. We promoted their survey across all our social media accounts and verbally promoted the survey to students at our school. More information about the SDG conference will be listed below.
More information about how our project tackled the SDGs can be found in the Sustainable Development Page.
Participating iGEM Teams:
KCIS_NewTaipei, Korea_HS, NTU-Singapore, IISER-Tirupati_India, Saint_Joseph, RUBochum, Stony_Brook, CCU_Taiwan, SHSID, NKCU_Tainan, ASIJ_Tokyo, Moscow_City, Thessaly, Sydney_Australia, William_and_Mary, NU_Kazakhstan, Aachan, MIT_MAHE, PuiChing_Macau, Wageningen_UR, ATG X iGEM UMA, Open_Science_Global, Calgary, Tu_Darmstadt, Mingdao, TAS_Taipei
Collaborations with Other Teams
NYCU - Experimental Verification, Bacteria Strains, and Plate Reader Usage
We helped Team NYCU with one of their experiments by following the protocol they provided for us. Their experiment involved testing the effect of different promoter strengths on GFP expression after induction. We also provided them with E. coli Nissle 1917 Strains for them to use in their project. In return, they let us use their plate reader, which we used for our colorimetric enzyme functional tests.
Figure 9 - one of our members at NYCU running experiments
Figure 10 - Plate reader NYCU lended us to use for our enzyme functional experiments.
Patras Team - Comic Translations
Team Patras reached out to us for a collaboration for their pharmacogenomics project. They created a comic to help young children better understand how medicine and drugs work, and were seeking for teams to help translate the comic to different languages. Thus, we helped translate their comic into Mandarin, which can be found here. We hope that our translation will allow them to expand their audience and allow them to distribute their comic to global audiences.
Duesseldorf Team - Postcard Project
We participated in team Duesseldorf’s postcard project, a collaboration opportunity where teams design postcards about their project and send them to all other participating teams. Through this project, we were able to gain knowledge about the different projects from the 90 other participating teams. We hope that our postcard also enabled other teams to learn more about our project.
Figure 11 - Our postcard front cover design
Figure 12 - Our postcard back cover design
Figure 13 - Collection of all participating teams’ postcards
MingDao Team - Plasmid Constructs
Team MingDao reached out to us with a request for two plasmid constructs: T7 + RBS SplintR ligase Expressing Construct (BBa_K3352006) and " T7 + RBS Φ29 DNA polymerase Expressing Construct (BBa_K3352007). We gave these constructs to help their project and met up with them in a virtual conference call. In the conference, we learned about each other’s projects and exchanged public surveys, which both teams filled out and shared with other members of their community.
Korea_HS Team - Instagram Project
We participated in Korea_HS’s quarantine-themed Instagram project. This project aimed to create a sense of community during the pandemic. It allows teams to easily access contact/project information of other teams. We sent them our team photo and a 4~6 sentence description of our team and project.
Figure 14 - Instagram Post of our project’s information (image from Korea HS Instagram)
KCIS Team - Survey Distribution
In addition to their participation in our SDG challenge and conference, the KCIS_NewTaipei met up with us in a virtual conference call. In the conference, we learned about each other’s projects and exchanged each other’s public surveys, which both teams filled out and shared with other members of each community. Their responses were used in our analysis of blood donation patterns around the world.
ARIA Team - Survey Distribution
The ARIA iGEM team helped distribute our public survey to members of their community. Their responses were used in our analysis of blood donation patterns around the world.
THE 17 GOALS. United Nations, <sdgs.un.org/goals.
“Voluntary Blood Donation: Foundation of a Safe and Sufficient Blood Supply.” Towards 100% Voluntary Blood Donation: A Global Framework for Action., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, <www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305666/.
Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabledevelopmentgoals.