At the beginning of June, after a month of reflection on the Quaranskin project, we decided to start looking for collaborations. In the perspective of finding participants, but also possibly of sharing our project with other teams. That's how we came up with the idea of a Chit-Chat, around the skin microbiome during lockdown! Through this event, we also got the opportunity to get to know other teams' experiences about iGEM around the world, and how they reacted when the crisis and the lockdown occurred. Several teams attended, including iGEM St Andrews, Vienne, Rochester, Peru.
The microbiome is a relatively recent discovery, which we found interesting to first place in a historical context, marking a clear evolution from the Renaissance to the ideals of purity of the 20th century. Moreover, variations according to cultures and types of space occupied were pointed out. The modern way of life does not allow the same relationship with the environment as a way of life close to nature existing in some cultures. Some issues were raised there about the impact of the Modern lifestyle on the skin microbiome. This led to a debate surrounding a potential "engineered microbiome", and its ethical implications. Each team had then the opportunity to talk about their project, and the challenges they were facing.
It seems it was a success ! Here's a feedback from iGEM Vienna: " On the 8th of June, we joined the Zoom-Talk “Let’s talk about our Microbiome!” hosted by iGEM team Paris Bettencourt. We gained fascinating insights into the microbiome on our skins and how it is influenced by our environment.(…) Still, we had a great time chatting and gained a whole new view onto our skin! "
iGEM France is a project that brings together 11 French-speaking iGEM teams, the 10 French teams plus the EPFL Lausanne team, for a total project of 130 members! In a collegial effort, we realized a video that gathers a presentation of each team, their project, their city, and anything else they wanted to share with the rest of the community !
With the Parisian teams, iGEM Ionis, Sorbonne, Évry, Paris-Saclay, we organized a worldwide virtual meetup on the weekend of September 5th and 6th. It was first the chance to meet the Parisian teams. Indeed the organisation of the event needed a lot of online meetings, preparations, search for speakers, and communication between us and also toward all the other iGEM teams over the world. This event was aslo an opportunity to interact with other iGEMers. To meet them, to exchange knowledge, create group reflections during workshops or hackaton, and aslo brainstorming sessions around speakers' presentations on bioentrepreneurship, iGEM experience, Modular Cloning, and history and politics surrounding CRISPR. All the teams participatin to the meetup have the opportunity to present thier project in few mintue taking part in a stimulating competition, during which the winner were rewarded by special prizes.
Workshops, Pitch Presentations, Hackathons
St. Andrews Workshop
During their workshop the St Andrew team presented us 3 senarios, and for each of them asked open questions to raise debate on ethical problematics. The first senario revolves around the use of an engineered E.coli as probiotic to treat acne on face, which have a kill swich leading to its death after a certain amount of time. The second senario is the use of probiotic to treat eczema. No kill swich would be implemented but it is expected that the bacteria would be outcompeted by native bacteria of the skin. The third senario is the use od S. epidermidis as an anti-aging probiotic. Since it's a commensal bacteria of the skin, in this case it would remain as permanant membre of the microbiome. For each of these senario, passionating discussions were opened about risks of such an implementation and solution to avoid these problems.
iGEM RUM Workshop
iGEM RUM also hosted a workshop, in which they first presented their project. It aims at engineering a bacteria able to degrade mercure, a major polluant in Vieques, an island-municipality of Puerto Rico. This project led to great discussions around ethics linked to releasing engineered bacteria in nature - in a situation of extreme necessity ? - and about making public education, even raising citizen's awareness on pollutants and on the use of synthetic biology to counter negative impacts.
We were pleased to see many teams taking part in our project pitch sessions! In these, we gave the opportunity on two slots of two hours, each day, to teams to present their project in a few minutes. At the end every participant can vote for the best presentation, and the 3 winners are rewarded with a Biorender session and a totebag with the iGEMeetParis logo!
We had the chance to host several speakers for this event, on various topics : Agathe Lermant and Paul Lubrano, former iGEMers, talked about their iGEM experience. Maher Ben Khaled gave a great talk about bioentrepreneurship. Pierre Crozet, a researcher in synthetic biology presented the concept of the MoClo. And finally Guillaume Levrier spoke about history and politics surrounding CRISPR, you can rewatch his talk on videos below.
Speaker: Guillaume Levrier - Part 1
Speaker: Guillaume Levrier - Part 2
Speaker: Guillaume Levrier - Part 3
Because social events are also what make a good meetup, Paris-Bettencourt organized a cooking session on French specialty: Chouquettes!
In terms of logistics, the organization of such an event required meticulous preparation. Consultation with iGEM's organizers was required to deal with zoom rooms. During the event, all technical facilities were to be designed in advance : creation of voting forms, preparation of the cooking sessions, sharing all the links in advance with password, the flyers, division into sub-groups, among others. We thank Nemanja Stijepovic and Maarten Lubbers, with whom we had constant interaction and who followed us throughout the event.
This meetup was an extraordinary moment of sharing and exchange, both in a human and profesional aspect. Thank you to all the other Parisian teams!
Collaboration with iGEM 2020 Teams
iGEM 2020 - Team St. Andrews
We met the St Andrews team during our ChitChat event in early June. On this occasion, we exchanged with them on the skin microbiome. They wanted to learn more about the diversity and interactions of the microbiome for their probiotic sunscreen project ; on our side, we were looking for participants as well as curious to look for new ideas on synthetic biology applied to the microbiome. Interested in each other, we continued our exchanges after this event. We proposed to test their sunscreen on a synthetic skin environment developped in EpiGrow project, unfortuatly the 2D model was not ready on time. They participated in the iGEMeetParis workshop during which they presented a amazing workshop!
iGEM 2020 - Team Nottingham
We have been in contact with the Nottingham team when looking for iGEM teams under confinment for our Quaranskin project. In discussions with them, we learned from each other's projects. They were enthusiastic to participate in our study, and we were offering to bring a wet lab component to their project as we did have access to our lab. Finally, they suggested that we record a podcast to talk about our experiences with iGEM this year, the team and the project, and the challenges we still face. This was a fantastic experience, and we thank Nottingham for inviting us. In return, we invited them to participate in the Paris Meetup event, which some of them attended, and actively participated in the workshop!
iGEM 2020 - Team Imperial
Imperial 2020 iGEM team developed an automated DNA assembly project. In the meantime, part of our project is about creating a MoClo kit to allow easy assembly of numerous combinations of DNA parts. However, assembly and cloning by hand is time consuming and would not require human intervention. If a collaboration was not possible due to too short deadlines, automated DNA assembly to construct all the different plasmids of our MoClo toolkit remains a subject of collaboration we would dream to see happen!
iGEM 2020 UGent - Team Bubbly
We contacted the Nottingham team when looking for iGEM teams under confinement for our Quaranskin project. In discussions with them, we learnt about each other's projects. They were enthusiastic to participate in our study, and we were offering to bring a wet lab component to their project as we had access to a lab. Finally, they suggested that we record a podcast to talk about our experiences with iGEM this year, the team and the project, and the challenges we still face. This was a fantastic experience, and we thank Nottingham for inviting us. In return, we invited them to participate in the Paris Meetup event, which some of them attended, and actively participated in the workshop in.
iGEM 2020 UGent - Team Vsycle
In beginning of August, we learned that UGent had two teams, thanks to Laure, who proposed to include members of their team in our study. We spoke about their project, and discovered they were looking for people in the agriculture field to complete their questionnaire. As the survey was written in English, we suggested to translate it into French before we can share it with our own contacts in France. We were glad to participate in this multicultural, multilingual exchange. We attach particular importance to translation and adaptation to populations we reach out to !