• We successfully formed a partnership by actively and repeatedly collaborating with Team St. Andrews throughout the duration of our projects
  • We collaborated on stakeholder interviews, and the conjoined effort allowed for a higher diversity of stakeholders and of questions asked to them
  • We successfully executed and analysed surveys together to gain knowledge on public opinion of the field of sunscreen application
  • We mentored the St. Andrews Team on Entrepreneurship techniques


Initial meeting at UK iGEM meetup:

  • Saw goals aligned closely in terms of product and human practices – both want to protect coral reefs from sunscreen damage.

2nd of July – Then individual meeting, talking about general collab – main idea for collab was stakeholder interviews.

10th of July – talk more about possible stakeholder interviews to collab on:

  • Manchester will make meeting with dermatology department (include St Andrews);
  • St andrews will include Manchester in meeting Dr. Hennige + sent notes from meeting with Dr. Allison;
  • Will contact natural sunscreen companies together.

11th of July – meet to draft email to sunscreen companies, search sunscreen companies and find possible connections within our team.

15th of July – Select who contacts which stakeholder (trying to contact as many as possible), perfect email even more. Also discussed what questions we wanted to ask Dr. Hennige and Dr. Tagliati.

16th of July – Both teams met with Dr. Hennige and Tagliati (organised by St Andrews), both teams asked questions that were relevant to other team as well.

28th of July – Manchester organised a workshop with Paul Misselbrook, a patent lawyer from Mewbrun Ellis. Both teams gained new insights about the patenting process.

28th of July – The two teams met to talk about upcoming stakeholder meetings.

19th of August – The two teams met to discuss what to ask Louisa Laing (organised by St Andrews), then interviewed her together.

4th of September – Met to talk about our partnership, future areas to collaborate. Decided to on our sunscreen surveys, analyse the data together.

15th of September – both teams met with the expert dermatologist (organised by Manchester).

19th of September – Manchester mentored St Andrews on conducting market research and offered insights on the sunscreen market.

6th of October – St. Andrews mentored the Manchester team on how to perform statistical analysis of survey data.

13th of October – The two teams met to discuss the sharing of survey data and what the benefit of this collaborative approach would be. The mutual sharing of data would help both teams to strengthen and evidence themes found in their human practice work that they did not get to test directly in their survey.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Members of the Manchester team mentoring St. Andrews on entrepreneurship (19/09/2020) (typo spotted too late in title).

In spring, iGEM teams across the United Kingdom met virtually to discuss and present their initial ideas for the competition. After watching each university’s presentation, we noticed striking similarities with our conceptual ideas and those of St. Andrews. Both of our teams are taking an environmental approach to synthesize a harmless UV filter in order to protect coral reefs and other marine life, and replace mainstream chemical sunscreens that have toxic effects in large enough quantities.

St. Andrews was initially seen as a stiff competition, as we wondered how our team would outcompete the other; however, we both quickly realized the compelling benefits of starting a collaboration. There is a significant overlap in the research and human practices needed to carry out each of our products, such as: understanding the chemistry of the many harmful UV filters incorporated into mainstream sunscreens, and their interactions with coral reefs and marine life, as well as gathering public opinion of sunscreens themselves and the general attitude towards skin protection. Overall, the sharing of research and resources has resulted in an enhanced understanding of the plethora of information that ecompasses our projects.

Though our two teams are similar in goals, we took drastically different approaches in methodology. Manchester attempts to synthesize a novel compound derived from mucus secretions on the hippopotamus, while St. Andrews aims to create a probiotic lotion with live bacteria on the skin, to act as a UV filter. Though different in manufacturing, they achieve a common goal, to protect the world's reefs and subsequently, the marine food chain.

There are two main points that the teams collaborated on, research and human practices.

  • Most of the research we collaborated on was through stakeholder interviews. Each university has members of staff whose research aided us greatly in our processes. First, we began with acquiring approval from key researchers and set up a date to carry out an interview. Then, our two teams would virtually meet to write up a series of questions that we would ask at that set date. This way, we can differentiate between questions and insights both teams need, and other more specific queries pertaining to each individual project. Our first interviews were organized by St. Andrews with a key researcher in environmental impact on coral reefs and an interview with Louise Laing, the founder of People4Ocean. Further stakeholder interviews include Manchester’s organization of interviews with patent lawyers, and dermatologists. Each of these stakeholder interviews provided invaluable information to our teams. Without this collaboration, Manchester would possibly have an inadequate understanding of coral’s interaction with marine pollutants, and key protocols which determine sunscreen’s interaction with coral.
  • Human practices mainly encompassed giving each team insight into new entrepreneurial skills. For example, several surveys were carried out by our teams to find out the public’s attitude towards skin protection and sunscreens in general. The questions were written and posted collaboratively. Data was shared between the groups, and St. Andrews provided techniques to analyse statistical data in order to come up with clear results of public opinion. Furthermore, Manchester contributed greatly in demonstrating insight into the sunscreen market, such as: market trends, demographic, economic and geographic factors. Also, resources to conduct market research were shared, such as key sources to gather data.

Overall, this collaborative effort greatly benefited both teams in their individual projects, and furthered our collective understanding of marine biology, environmental conservation, and toxicology of chemical sunscreens.

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