Team:Calgary Entrepreneurial/Project/HumanPractices


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Approaching Our Project From Another Perspective

During the development of our technology it became clear that a variety of hurdles would have to be overcome for our product to reach market. These included areas surrounding safety of our technology to the public, perception of our technology by key decision makers and end-users, and the protection of the platform from competitors who would be interested in expanding into our market space.

A Composite Approach To "Human Practices" From a Company

What is Human Practices? More importantly, what relevance does it have to the formation of a company? How can we develop our ideas in an ethical, safe, and environmentally conscious ways to better the world? Our human practice initiatives aimed at providing answers to these questions within the context of our companies target market: the oil and gas industry.

To achieve these aims we worked closely with our end-users and networked extensively with groups to gain important insight into the development of our product. We worked to analyze and predict the appropriate safety and containment solutions that would be required to not only provide a safe environment to our end-users, but also to prevent our end-user or other competitors from developing our ideas. Finally, we aimed to share our experiences and learning with new iGEM groups.

Networking Events

We attended a variety of events over the last year to create contacts within the business and synthetic biology communities. Through this we have met individuals involved in a vast number of different industries with a wide array of backgrounds. These meetings are summarized in the table below.

Event Name Event Description Date Attendees
BioAlberta Gala

We were invited to represent early start-ups in a discussion on biotech commercialization.

November 21, 2012

David, Robert, Iain, Lisa, Maggie

OSLI Conversation

A meeting with the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative to discuss our project.

February 6, 2013

Robert, Emily, David, Iain, Lisa, Maggie


Networking opportunity for oil and gas engineers with a keynote given on our technology.

May 7, 2013

David, Lisa, Emily

Bioconversion Network ETEB Conference

Evaluation of biotechnology for commercial applications in Alberta and beyond.

May 27, 2013

Emily, David, Lisa, Iain

AITF Summit

AITF strategic direction review for governmental funding.

June 16, 2013

Emily, David

SB 6.0

A large synthetic biology conference held at Imperial College London, England.

July 9-11, 2013

Emily, David, Iain, Robert


An event parallel to SB 6.0 focused on synthetic biology startups.

July 10, 2013

Emily, David, Iain, Robert

Banff Venture Forum

A meeting of startups, investors, and government representatives in Banff, AB.

September 26-27, 2013

Emily, Iain, Robert

Through these events we have met many contacts. At the ETEB, AITF, OSLI, and BioAlberta events we met numerous industry contacts that have been essential in spreading the word about our small startup. We also met professionals in law, business structure, marketing, and intellectual property through the SynBioBeta and Banff Venture Forum that have been essential in getting us to the stage we are at now. Presenting our technology at the SB 6.0 conference was an amazing opportunity for our group to gain some validation of our ideas, and the positive feedback we received there was invaluable.

Biological Safety and Containment

Through conversations with industry in both 2012 and 2013, we’ve realized that safety and biological containment for our product will be a big priority if we want to see it adopted. Many investors and potential end-users had significant concerns about how we would ensure that our organism does not enter the environment. Although our final product makes use of a closed chamber where samples are injected, preventing our organism from entering the environment, there were still concerns that we would need to implement additional layers of security. As such, we have designed several different components of containment in order to minimize any chance that our organism could ever escape. Through our work in 2012, we have developed multiple ‘killswitch’ mechanisms. These include restriction enzyme based mechanisms as well as auxotrophy-based systems. As well as these measures, our system is designed such that there is only an applicator to the system, making use of a one-way valve. This makes the organism inside inaccessible to both the user and the environment. This type of design serves two purposes. Not only does his design isolate our organism, but it also helps to protect our intellectual property, particularly if we continue to pursue a trade secret IP strategy.

Our design of all of these components were directly influenced by our conversations with investors, industry and potential end users. Through talking to a variety of individuals, we have determined that this seems like a feasible and necessary plan in order to ensure safety for our user, the environment and even ourselves. This will increase the likelihood of our technology being adopted in our market place as well as our intellectual property being protected.

To ensure that our organism performs the sensing task and nothing else we have engineered a bleach system into our final designs. This accomplishes two tasks in our product. Primarily, it ensures that the bacteria used in the testing does not live past it's usefulness, but it also accomplishes a secondary goal of making our product disposable in everyday waste by removing any potential biohazard. This decreases the costs associated with disposal of our product, ensuring safety and lowering costs.

Outreach and Community Development

Our team has aided in developing a synthetic biology community here in Alberta in a number of ways. Through our various networking events, we got chance to not only receive valuable feedback that has helped to shape our project, but we also got to present our Synthetic Biology ideas in a number of ways. We shared with professional engineers in Alberta at the CPCGE talk we gave, we shared with the Alberta biotech community at the BioAlberta Gala and we shared with industry players in Alberta at the AITF summit to name a few. In addition, we collaborated with the Calgary collegiate team in helping establish the Consort Alberta high school iGEM team. Through frequent Skype chats and workshops held both in Calgary and in Consort, we helped them establish their team and develop their project ideas. With their hard work, they were able to take home the award for best human practices at their first jamboree. We hope that by encouraging future synthetic biologists we can sow the seeds for a thriving biotechnology business in Canada.