Participation in CCiC academic conference
Our team participated in the online 2020 7th Synthetic Biology Conference of China iGEMer Community --- From Lab to Fab (CCiC). During the conference, we listened to the lectures delivered by the leaders in the field of synthetic biology who shared the insights in some of the most cutting-edge technologies in this field. We also communicated with other Chinese iGEM teams.
We also presented our project to the conference and gained valuable advice from peers and professors. They shared insights on how we could adjust the algorithm of our modeling, why we should interview the doctors instead of directly interviewing the patients for the sake of protections for those patients, and how we could make our academic poster better the next time.
Interview With Doctor
We interviewed Hao Wu, an expert in enterostomy from The Twelfth People's Hospital of Guangzhou City, to ask for his opinions on the issues facing by patients who received enterostomy and his suggestions on our project.
Firstly, he pointed out that the purpose of enterostomy is not to improve the quality of their lives, but to survive. He believed this surgery had brought inconvenience to patients' daily lives. For instance, the intestinal liquid could be controlled using modern technologies, but there was no effective method to prevent foul gases from escaping into the air from their stoma. In this way, the smelly odor around them usually brought them social embarrassment when they were in public places. This became a great problem for them especially those patients were constantly facing traditional bias in China, as people often treated them like the disabled, and they needed constant care from doctors and nurses. This proved our project had the potential to significantly improve those patients' quality of life.
As for the price, 100 yuans (around 15 dollars) per day or lower would be acceptable for most of the patients. "I have seen a patient who spent thousands of yuans on perfumes to cover the unpleasant odor" he said. Therefore, in our future research direction, we will research on the most economic way to produce the product with the cost around 100 yuans (around 15 dollars) per day.
Interview with the CEO of biotech company "Xbiome"
Xbiome is the first AI pharmaceutical company in China that specializes in intestinal micro-ecology. Currently, its main research field is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT). The company devoted itself to the treatment of intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases, by developing or reconstructing the intestinal flora of patients, using the method of FMT.
FMT has proved that flora directly interacts with some intestinal diseases, and it has also shown effect in reducing the symptoms of some refractory diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon inflammation, mental disease, obesity, insulin resistance, and autoimmune diseases, which have become research focuses in recent years. The use of FMT can be divided into two levels: conventional treatments of diseases identified by medical guidelines (rCDI); exploratory studies of diseases that are not included in the medical guidelines (i.e. bacteria-related diseases). More than 100,000 patients have been treated with FMT by now.
Through the interview, they first took us to visit their research and development department, introducing their major researching area to us. They introduced some machines and instruments that might help our experiment part. For example, they introduced a machine called Flow Cytometer (FCM) that can calculate the percentage of living bacteria. We also learned how to use machine to simulate intestinal environment. This enabled us to test whether our product can work in real intestine. In early stage of our project, we had assumed to make our final product into the form of food instead of pills, so we asked for their advice. Fortunately, they had experience about it. They suggested that making food with treating effect is feasible, and is more likely to be accepted by the public, unless the bacteria do not interact with the food.
For HP part, they also offered us some valuable advice. We express our interest in publishing our final product into the market, so they told us the flow from pharmaceutical research to marketing, including some laws and regulation about pharmacy in China. They also suggested we can propagandize our product as well as knowledge on intestinal health, in order to expand our potential market. Additionally, they advised that we had better communicate more with doctors and patients, in order to know the demand for our product. If necessary, we can ask a consulting firm to estimate some data to calculate the demand for the whole market.