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Team:PYMS GZ China/Implementation

Proposed Implementation
WHO will end up using this and how will they use it?

2020 has been a year dictated by SARs-CoV-2. Scientists all over the world worked restlessly to combat this virus. Our team realized that one of the keys to effectively combating the coronavirus pandemic would be to deal with the emergence of multiple strains and develop a universal strategy based on these insights. With our general assay system, researchers can quickly test the infectivity of different strains.

HOW will we implement our project in the real world?

The general assay system would be most effective when applied in a research faculty focused on infectious diseases. Ideally, the final version of our general assay system would be safer and easily accessible to researchers. Ways to alter and better our assay system is discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

Our team understands that conducting valuable research is important, but we also know that effectively communicating the results to a wide range of stakeholders is equally important. One of the best and most effective ways of getting our findings out to the public is by publishing our research. In order to allow other scientific investigators to learn about our assay system, we would go through the process of getting our methodology and results published in scientific journals. This way, our target consumer base, scientists, would be directly contacted and made aware of our research.

Similarly, to engage with our consumers directly, we will contact individual labs and scientists that are conducting research that would benefit from our general assay system. This would further promote the use of our assay in research facilities.

Additionally, to ensure our assay makes an important impact on the world, we will continue to test the infectivity of current and future SARS-CoV-2 variants in order to supply researchers with this critical information.

WHAT are ways to improve your invention?

Though our project and procedure can be safely conducted in a biosafety level 2 laboratory, there are always ways to improve. Future projects building upon our general assay systems could be aimed to make it safer. Biosecurity is an important concept to keep in mind as it ensures diseases will not be able to become a danger to society. The worst thing would be not to execute necessary biosecurity measures and have our organism create more problems. Therefore, the implementation of a kill switch could optimize the safety of the project as it would allow researchers a way to destroy the infected cells. In order to ensure our project is usable for as many labs as possible, when creating the kill switch, we must understand which method would yield a successful and resource-effective result.

Several of the plasmids are commercially bought. Unforeseen circumstances could potentially cause there to be a backorder or shortage of the needed materials. In order to avoid this possible conflict, the project and protocol can be improved to construct the plasmids in the lab instead of purchasing it. Consequently, the kill switch we would construct would be a deadman switch where the organism would begin to destroy itself in the absence of a chemical.

Another challenge that may pose a problem is accessibility to lab equipment. In order to construct and execute the general assay system, specialized apparatuses are required for unique steps like measuring the bioluminesce and centrifugal ultrafiltration. This could make the procedure difficult to carry out as labs with limited resources could lack the needed equipment. Diseases can originate anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is important that labs around the world are able to research diseases using our general assay. To make our invention more widely accessible, our team can identify alternative equipment and products that can still execute the necessary steps of our protocol. For example, if a lab does not have access to luciferase, bioluminescence can still be obtained through the use of green algae. If a lab does not have access to luciferase, but does have access to green algae, they can still execute our assay. Furthermore, there are cost-friendly alternatives to machines that are used in the procedure. Since a constant power supply and 24-hour temperature regulation is not necessary, there are cheaper, yet effective PCR machines that can be used. There are organizations like OpenPCR that provide PCR Thermocyclers for less than $500. Additionally, there is open-access research that explains methods to conduct PCR for less than $150 by engineering the machine from commercial, easily accessible items. By providing multiple ways and more cost-effective methods and machinery, research using our general assay system is available to everyone, including labs with limited resources.

In the long run, we know our project will not always be relevant as it is tailored to measure the infectivity of specifically SARS-CoV-2. Our team wanted to ensure a broader, more universal use case for our system. In order to maintain its relevance, few changes need to be made to the procedure. When the next deadly disease comes, future virologists, vaccine researchers, and scientists can use our general assay system and tailor it to test the binding affinity of the new, unique virus. By altering the pseudovirus to mimic the latest virus and changing the properties of the HEK293 cells to represent the specific viral entry point, our assay system can be applied successfully supplying them with crucial data. The challenge with this future application is that there must be enough information and knowledge about the new virus. Researchers must be able to identify and isolate the specific portion of the virulent genome that causes the infection. They also must know how virus-cell interaction that allows the entree and proliferation to occur.

  1. Helen Knight | MIT News correspondent. “‘Kill Switches’ Shut down Engineered Bacteria.” MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, news.mit.edu/2015/kill-switches-shut-down-engineered-bacteria-1211.
  2. Wong, Grace, et al. “A Rapid and Low-Cost PCR Thermal Cycler for Low Resource Settings.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0131701.
  3. “Science Safety Security – Finding the Balance Together.” Phe.gov, www.phe.gov/s3/BioriskManagement/Pages/default.aspx.
  4. “The $499 Open Source PCR Machine / Thermal Cycler.” OpenPCR, openpcr.org/.
  5. “Understanding the Natural Wonder of Bioluminescence.” Department for Environment and Water, www.environment.sa.gov.au/goodliving/posts/2018/04/sea-sparkle.