Team:Warwick/Human Practices

Integrated Human Practices


The feasibility, purpose, and proposed implementation of our research project, as well as our responsibilities as scientists, were considerations that we kept in mind constantly throughout our project. Our human practice research, engagement and subsequent reflections were a great influence in the process of developing our biosensor test kit from project conception to proposed execution and use.

Cancer is a devastating and widespread group of diseases, and we knew we had to research and speak about cancer in a sensitive and considerate way, especially when engaging with stakeholders.

The diagram below gives an overview of our development process, which occurred in 4 general stages:

  1. Conception of the project idea and how to go about it
  2. Development of ideas and characteristics needed to be effective
  3. Consideration of the context and environment our idea would be set in
  4. (Proposed) implementation, taking into account feasibility, ethics and safety.

Overview diagram of our devleopment process. Shows we moved through conception, development, consideration and implementation.

Explore the timeline below to see how our project was influenced by our Human Practices research!


  • Brainstorming & sub-group presentations of proposed projects (March)

    Description: As a team, we discussed and brainstormed with our team of supervisors on what project topics we could pursue, as well as their areas of expertise that could best support our project.

    To make an informed decision about the final project, the members of the team broke up into sub-groups that each looked for a prevalent issue, before researching and proposing a synbio solution to these problems.

    As subgroups, we pitched our ideas to the team and all our supervisors, before deciding which one to pursue further.

    Input: We found many potential projects, such as trying to address the world’s most microplastic-ridden river, which runs through the Greater Manchester area, or the creation of a synthetic egg, in order to alleviate the environmental strain of chicken farming.

    However, we settled on a project aiming to deal with colorectal cancer (CRC), which was a prevalent issue even before COVID-19. It is a leading cause of death in the UK (and worldwide), and chances of survival are much higher if the cancer is identified and treated early.

    During our research we found evidence that as many as 2/3rds of CRC patients had a colibactin (genotoxin) producing bacterial strain in their guts[1].

    Adjustments: Taking into account the areas of expertise of our various supervisors and strengths of our team members, we decided to focus our efforts on the diagnostics aspect - since treatment of CRC is more successful the earlier the cancer is found, we wanted to help patients and healthcare practitioners identify this cancer earlier, faster and easier.

    Thus we came up with the idea to create a fluorescent biosensor for colibactin.

  • Proposing & researching how to carry out project (March - April)

    Description: After deciding to work on colorectal cancer, we turned to our main supervisors Dr. Chris Corre, Patrick Capel and Dr. Emzo de los Santos to discuss how best our intentions could be realised.

    This included experimental systems both within and outside of the lab, who to contact and interview to influence our development, and which softwares to use after the pandemic hit and we lost access to the lab. This sub-stage involved a lot of team discussion (which became more difficult after many of us travelled back home to a large range of timezones) and consultations with various combinations of our supervisors, as we had to translate our originally wet-lab project plans to be done with only dry-lab methods.

  • Switching from working with colibactin to a colibactin derivative (April)

    Input: We entered a detailed research phase, and found that colibactin itself would be difficult and dangerous to test with, due to high reactivity and large size. We consulted Dr. Manuela Tosin, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry of our University to work around this.

    Adjustments: We knew that it would not be possible to work with colibactin itself for safety reasons. With Dr. Tosin's guidance, we were able to find an alternative molecule to detect with our biosensor - N-myristoyl-D-asparagine - which is also involved in the biosynthesis of colibactin. More details on this can be found on the Engineering page.

  • Using cell-free systems for experimentation (April)

    Input: Our supervisors Patrick Capel and Dr. Emzo de los Santos have wide-ranging of areas of expertise, and suggested the use of cell-free systems for experimentation in our future project. Cell-free systems have the benefit of reducing the complexity of a whole cell, as well as being fast and low-cost to biomanufacture any final product. No members of the team had worked with cell-free systems in the lab before, but after doing some research on techniques we unanimously decided that it would be an ideal method of experimentation for the scope of our project, which we aimed to be a fluorescent biosensor for colibactin that could be used by doctors during patient checkups, to reduce waiting times before receiving results on whether a patient is at risk of bowel cancer.

    With the COVID-19 pandemic developing, they advised us that it might be necessary to switch to a completely in silico approach to our project, as it seemed less and less likely that the University would be able to safely grant us laboratory access while conforming to government regulations. As such Dr. Chris Corre, Patrick Capel and Dr. Emzo de los Santos indicated the potential of using software as an alternative approach.

    Adjustments: Unfortunately, we eventually had no lab access throughout the project due to the COVID-19 pandemic and as such were unable to utilise cell-free systems for testing. We do hope that future teams working on similar projects will consider using cell-free systems in their experimentation.

  • Translating project from wet lab to dry lab (April-May)

    Input: As mentioned before, the fact that we would have to adapt our project idea to be doable with solely dry-lab methods, like in silico modelling and literature review, was brought to our attention. Following up on our supervisors' advice, we considered a range of software we came across during initial research e.g. PHYRE2 and Copasi, settling, however, on Rosetta, under the guidance of Dr. Corre and Dr. de los Santos. We further sourced a variety of papers and literature with similar use of Rosetta and decided this would provide us with a solid backbone in shifting our idea to a dry lab model.

    Adjustments: From the input of our supervisors Dr. Chris Corre, Patrick Capel and Dr. Emzo de los Santos we figured that overall, Rosetta had the best features relevant to the scope of our project. Our supervisors mentioned above were well-versed in it and guided us through the process, which would have been very different if we had chosen other softwares instead.

    We thus used Rosetta to test our chosen molecules and do control tests, which can be found in the Engineering page.

  • Diversifying team skills and improving communication (March - May)

    Input: Our supervisors Megha Bawa and Marion Dugué also provided sound advice on how to manage the work of the team over the Summer, and encouraged a multidisciplinary approach to solving any problem that our team encountered. Marion Dugué, a Maths and Physics student, recommended that we tap on the University's pool of talented budding mathematicians to assist in the modelling efforts of the project.

    Megha Bawa, a Warwick graduate and iGEM alumna who currently works in project management, also gave us advice on how to communicate as effectively as possible virtually and in vastly different timezones - which we definitely took to heart as we progressed.

    Adjustments: Most of the successful applicants for the team happened to be life sciences students. Megha Bawa and Marion Dugué as mentioned above recommended that we expand our areas of strength and build a multidisciplinary team in order to tackle the issue in a creative and flexible way. This would prove extremely useful as our project eventually became fully in silico and shifted towards computational biology, a field in which our team makeup at the time was somewhat lacking. As such, we opened a call for engineering/computer science students and were elated to welcome several more members onto the team!


  • Consulting Organisations (May - November)

    Description: After learning about the devastating number of deaths caused by CRC, we wanted to gain insight to the inner workings of organisations that already work in the field.

    We consulted various organisations such as local and international cancer charities and awareness groups, as we wanted to get an overview of how we could make our biosensor as useful as possible to stakeholders.

    Input: From our interview with Kathryn Whitmore, Early Diagnosis Officer (Cancer Outcomes) of Cancer Research UK, and consultations with Bowel Cancer UK, Colon Cancer Awareness and Fight Colorectal Cancer, we gained the following key insights:

    • In most places, colorectal cancer screening is done by screening for the presence of blood in feces. Many individuals find this idea unpleasant.
    • Overdiagnosis is a big issue to consider, as the current FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) can return false positives.
    • Biosensor-based screening tests would have the potential to be cheaper than the current FIT. Most research currently underway is aimed at adding on to the current FIT.
    • We also learned about how the current screening process is carried out, which can be found on our Cancer Screening Process report in the pdf below:

    Adjustments: We took patient opinion surveys made available by these organisations to guide the proposed implementation for our test, as well as our plans for spreading awareness about CRC and addressing potential misconceptions in our Education and Collaboration efforts.

    From these consultations, we learned very much about the screening process and the many obstacles to full success (such as low participation rates in individuals of screening age) and solutions taken in the past to combat these obstacles. These issues are also highlighted in our Cancer Screening report .

    We were advised to consider how well our proposed biosensor test would perform relative to current FIT - if our test ended up further flooding the system with false positives, it would contribute more to the current issues. This was a comparison that we planned to carry out in the lab, however as the pandemic resulted in zero lab access throughout the project we were unable to do this in the end. If the situation allows in the future, we would very much like to carry this out if we can!

  • Market Analysis (September - October)

    Description: To better understand how our proposed biosensor would fit into the current market and cost-effectiveness of colorectal cancer related biosensors, we attempted to make a market analysis of the two current tests in the UK, gFOBT and FIT kit.

    Input: Unfortunately due to the pandemic and difficulties of virtual work we were unable to carry out as many interviews or surveys as we would have liked, but if we had the chance we would have consulted health shops that sell cancer testing kits.

    We were able to carry out a small comparison between two different testing kits used in the UK, in order to identify the characteristics of our proposed test kit that we should pay attention to, in order to maximise participation and usefulness.

    Adjustments: The comparison report is available below:

  • Researching policies & practices (August - October)

    Description: After considering the local policies and practices of cancer screening, they featured very heavily in the design and implementation of our proposed biosensor.

    Input: So far, our consultations with stakeholders and prior research was mainly focused on current screening policies/practice (which after March, was very much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic). We also looked back at older screening practices such as:

    • Previous use of a home-based guaiac fecal occult blood test (gFOBt) biennnially
    • The UK National Health Services’s Bowel Cancer Screening Programme was originally targeted at individuals aged 60 to 69 years, however the upper age limit was increased to 74 in 2020.
    • The introduction of BowelScope screening in 2013 - the one-off sigmoidoscopy offered to those 55 years old as outlined in our cancer screening report.

    With this research, we aimed to better understand the reasons for these changes -such as the new FIT kits having higher sensitivity for CRC and colorectal polyps compared to gFOBT, as well as no need for a special diet, and only needing a single sample!

    We understood how these changes were brought about for the maximum benefit of patients while staying at reasonable cost for the National Health Service, and kept these limitations/needs in mind when coming up with the intended implementation of our own test kit.

    Adjustments: Unfortunately, without lab access we were unable to test our modelling and plans for the test kit in person, and as such had no experimental evidence to go by to compare the sensitivity of our kit to current ones.

    Still, we believe that if we were able to utilise cell-free systems to experimentally test our kits, this would be relatively low cost. We also believe that our test would be especially useful in pre-screening, as instead of testing for the presence of blood in feces like current tests do, our biosensor detects for the presence of colibactin, which may be present in patient feces even before the development of bleeding in the digestive tract.

  • Changing the intended end-user of our test kit (October)

    Input: We also became increasingly aware of the negative impact the pandemic had on healthcare practitioners. Originally, our test was intended to be provided to healthcare workers to aid in the testing for colorectal cancer in patients that were physically there for appointments.

    Adjustments: However, as we saw that the National Health Service was already under great strain because of COVID-19, we decided to design our test kit to be more consumer-friendly and accessible enough to be taken at home, by the potential patient. In this way, we hoped to relieve some of the burden on healthcare workers by reducing false positives when the test is done in complement to current screening practices such as the FIT kit and sigmoidoscopies. Ideally, it would also reduce the number of false positives and thus prevent both doctors and patients from undergoing unnecessary colonoscopies, as there are several other non-cancer diseases that would cause an abnormal FIT kit result such as Crohn’s disease, colitis and IBS.

  • Consulting other stakeholders: (June - October)

    Description: To further inform our project’s ethical, technical and safety decisions, we engaged with other stakeholders we had identified: patients/ individuals of screening age, research scientists, and caretakers. To do so, we reached out to various communities of patients online, National Health Service-affiliated research scientists, and care homes around the University. We wanted their input in order to understand what characteristics were desired, which we would then aim to include in our design. From their input, we made many changes to the proposed design and implementation of our biosensor test kit. All together these interviews allowed us to create a “game plan” for the future, if we were able to continue this project in a COVID-free world. What we learned from the different groups of other stakeholders are outlined in the entries below.
  • Learning more about how technology can improve the screening progress, and how our test can fit into current practice (October)

    Input: We contacted Dr. Nasir Rajpoot, an Honorary Scientist at the Department of Pathology, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire (UHCW) Trust, Founder of Tissue Image Analytics lab, and co-Director of PathLAKE Centre of Excellence on AI in Pathology. We wished to interview him as he had published a paper on how Artificial Intelligence could be used in pathology labs to carry out objective grading of potentially cancerous tissue slides.

    He very kindly agreed to speak with us on multiple aspects of our project, from how it could fit into the current screening process at UHCW/the National Health Service and how technological applications could lessen the burden on healthcare workers. We learned of the importance of objectivity when it came to something as sensitive as whether a particular individual may have colorectal cancer or not - mistakenly telling a patient that they are cancer-free (and the opposite) has devastating consequences for their health and wellbeing.

    Notes from the interview can be found here:

    Adjustments: Our interview with him gave us great insight as to how our test could be used in complement with the current screening tests to reduce the number of false positive cancer diagnoses for patients, thus reducing an unnecessary workload on healthcare practitioners and pathologists who carry out the grading of colorectal cancer from biopsy slides.

    Importantly, endoscopies/colonoscopies are highly invasive and are not procedures that should be taken lightly - it is not only uncomfortable for patients but there is small risk of injuries and consequent infection. Therefore, a false positive result that leads to unnecessary colonoscopy (which Dr. Rajpoot stated is about 50% of cases reviewed by pathologists!) is detrimental to patients physically and emotionally. We understood the importance of accurate screening, and felt that our proposed test kit could work in complement with current screening practice - perhaps since our biosensor tests for the presence of colibactin in particular instead of blood in feces like current tests, it could perhaps help in differentiating between colorectal cancers and conditions that show similar signs like IBS and Crohn’s disease. Ideally, it would then be able to reduce false positives (when taken into account with the other screening test kits) and lessen the burden on healthcare workers as well as on patients.

  • Consulting care homes/caretakers and patients (September-October)

    Input: The various care homes we contacted were overwhelmed with addressing the needs of their clients during the pandemic, especially as many clients were at-risk for COVID-19. Along with our online research, we discovered that the rapid re-organisation of healthcare systems was definitely a global issue as resources were re-allocated towards COVID needs. As we already know from previous research and consultations with Cancer charity organisations, screening for CRC has been halted since UK lockdown began in March. This results in a delay of screening and/or doctor’s appointments, which as mentioned before is detrimental to the patient’s outcomes

    We also took in the opinions of patients from various counties in England - consulting surveys carried out by organisations, other researchers or cancer organisations, to further advise the design of our testing kit.

    Adjustments: By integrating the opinions of consumer end-users, we were able to identify characteristics that consumers prefer or demand in the screening process. This information was used to inform our future proposed implementation plans (if we are able to continue the project) and may also be useful for future iGEM teams.

    From patients and care-takers, we learned of several difficulties currently faced by individuals such as delays in doctor's appointments, and not being able to bring their family or friends with them to the appointments for emotional support due to safe distancing guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately considering current circumstances, some of these issues are simply not able to be solved at the moment. We believe that by emphasising on making our test kit as quick as possible (currently approximated at 20 minutes,) the amount of waiting time can be reduced and hopefully reduce the amount of stress experience by patients and their loved ones.

    We also learned of many reasons that discouraged individuals from doing the home test kit for screening, which are summarised together with potential solutions in our Bowel Cancer Screening Process Report made available above in the "Consulting Organisations" section of the timeline.

    Outside of the scientific characteristics we understood the importance of design, accessibility and raising health literacy in maintaining a successful cancer screening campaign.

  • Learning about how to raise awareness of screening campaigns (October)

    Input: To learn more about such screening campaigns and advertising, we were able to interview Mr Keith Chester Dacanay, who works in a cancer diagnostics lab. He kindly explained the usual process of how established companies go through the marketing of similar test kits.

    He also outlined the importance and usefulness of trial runs of screening kits, which can be done in collaboration with hospitals in less economically developed countries (LEDCs), for example. In this way, the developers/manufacturers of the test kit are able to collect valuable data, as well as benefiting those in LEDCs who would normally not have access to such screening systems.

    He provided some advice for if we were able to produce our own test kit in the lab and wanted to gain awareness about it and the importance of screening - we could work with local hospitals/clinics by contacting consultants or labs in hospitals.

    Adjustments: Though without lab access we are sadly unable to produce even a physical prototype of our intended test kit, his input gave us valuable advice about what next steps could be taken past this point.


  • COVID-19 impact on research (throughout project)

    Description: As the pandemic developed, we began to realise how it had knock-on effects on almost everything and everyone involved in the scientific research process.

    We wanted to understand more about how exactly COVID-19 impacted research, deciding to interview the researchers themselves - we hoped to be able to identify common issues and perhaps develop some solutions, as well as see if they had any ways our own team could work around difficulties faced in our own project as we all adapted to working virtually and from home. Notes on the interviews we held with these researchers are available in the next box.

    The insights and guidance we would receive would be relevant to our project if we are able to continue with it after iGEM, having to work in a lab space shared with all other researchers and students at the School of Life Sciences. In addition, consulting specialists would also be helpful to future teams, which may have to carry out their iGEM projects in social distancing or lockdown measures if the global situation extends until this time next year!

  • Impact on academic research across fields (August-October)

    Input: We contacted researchers who kindly agreed to speak with us about how their research (from plant and evolution science, neurosciences, synthetic biology and computer science) has been impacted by the global pandemic. Key notes from the interviews we carried out are available in the links below:

    Dr. Robin Allaby, Professor of Life Sciences with a wide range of research interests from evolutionary genetics to molecular anthropology.

    Dr. Nicholas Dale, Ted Pridgeon Professor in Neuroscience, Founder & CTO of Sarissa Biomedical.

    Dr. Guha Tanaya, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

    (We are also interviewing more professors after wiki freeze to gain insight to a wider range of research disciplines:

    Dr. Fabrizio Alberti, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Chemistry, researching Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology

    Dr. Sara Kalvala, Associate Professor of Computer Science, whose research is in Computational Biology)

    We learned about obstacles faced in their research and university teaching due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, from expected issues such as Postgraduate students having to graduate and leave behind unfinished projects due to lab closures, to unexpected impacts like the loss of spontaneous brainstorming and ideation sessions, that were possible back when working together in the same space. We think these interviews were very enlightening, as we had a good mix of representation of different types of researchers, from lab-based to computer-based, and it was interesting to see what similarities and differences were raised across such different fields.

    One common point raised was that working from home meant there was a lack of spontaneity of ideas and brainstorming, as many of the researchers reminisced about the creativity that arose from unplanned discussions in the lab, where anybody standing around nearby could join in and further drive the ideation with their unique input. With every single meeting having to be planned and held online now, they felt this creativity was stifled. Similarly, this did feel like something our team members struggled with as well, as we had to effortfully plan every meetup (especially across the 8 hour range of timezones!)

    To end off, we described our collaborative research project platform idea, Warwick Synergy, and asked for their opinions on the feasibility and implementation of the project to mixed reviews.

    Adjustments: As expected, different types of research projects would lean themselves more favourably to the intentions of our Synergy platform, while others were quite high-level and would need sufficient training of students who have not done similar work before. These inputs from researchers informed our further development of the Synergy platform after wiki freeze and how we plan for it to be utilised.

    Our interviews with these professors also addressed some misconceptions that many of us may have - in a perfect world with unlimited resources, it is easy to assume that simply increasing the amount of funding that researchers receive would solve all these problems. However after talking to actual researchers, we learned that this is not always the case - individuals have their own careers and families to handle, and can’t always be paid to stay on if they wish to move on with their lives.

    As scientists are important stakeholders in our project and outreach efforts, we truly realised the importance of sympathising with every individual’s personal circumstances in these trying times. Our interview with Dr. Guha Tanaya also reminded us of the importance of mental health and wellbeing, and maintaining a work-life balance. When working from home like we have been since March 2020, it is easy to no longer have a divide between Work and Life as many of us are constantly at our computers or phones, discussing the project or sending and answering emails. Exhaustion and burn out seem easier to get to working from home, and this can hamper progress and productivity of the project in various ways.

    In an attempt to keep fresh ideas coming from our team members, we increased the number of online meetings that we had in our subgroups (e.g. Dry Lab, HP, and Outreach), and always offered the chance for all other members of the team to join. Our supervisors Megha Bawa and Marion Dugue, were also incredibly helpful and helped drive the creativity of our team’s problem solving! In the end, we think that vastly increasing the number of meetings and making them more casual was beneficial to the communications and innovation of our team’s work.

  • Impact on medical research (October)

    Input: We also learned about other effects that COVID has had on hospital research. We found, for example, that stroke patients and heart attack patients are currently putting off going to the hospital, and are thus not getting to medical care as frequently or quickly as they should. Some of this may be due to patients not wanting to burden their local healthcare services with non-COVID related health issues, making it easier to brush off miniature strokes or heart attacks as “mild pains.” However, these small attacks are still important as they are often harbingers of bigger problems. One especially interesting factor was that since paramedic’s attentions have been focused on COVID-19 patients, it is possible that there is bias against picking up patients demonstrating other issues like stroke with the FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time) test. Normally, paramedics may fall on the side of caution that it might be a stroke and address patients as such, but now as COVID-19 has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind, people might be less cautious. This is where Dr. Nicholas Dale’s work comes in, as he has developed a stroke biosensor as an objective tool to address subjective decisions.

    Additionally, nursing staff who were trained by researchers to recruit patients to clinical trials may have been reallocated to the COVID-19 effort, or are otherwise simply unable to find patients with non-COVID symptoms, thus patient recruitment for clinical trials has also been detrimentally affected.

    Adjustments: These points raised by Dr. Nicholas Dale gave our team plenty to consider in the development of our proposed biosensor test kit during an era where COVID-19 is still very much a concern around the world. It is inevitable that due to the urgency and suddenness of the pandemic, resources (and attention) are re-allocated from other medical problems to this pressing one. We realised how easy it is to brush off other complications, (in our project’s case, abdominal pains or unusual stools) when patients consider it in relation to the COVID-19 symptoms that everyone is now familiar with. This information together with the marketing advice from Mr. Dacanay would be indispensable in our future plans of moving our project further into realisation.

  • Project Design (throughout project)

    Description: Our overall project design was influenced and informed by the multitude of insights we gained during the Human Practices research process.

    Input: Every team supervisor or stakeholder that we consulted or interviewed gave us different considerations to include in our project design.

    From interviewing charity organisations, we learned of the importance of awareness campaigns and the need to increase health literacy in order to increase uptake of screening.

    From interviewing research scientists and pathologists, we learned how technological applications such as AI can lessen the burden on healthcare workers, and inspired us to contribute to this relief by designing our proposed test kit as a home-based test - that could complement the work done by healthcare practitioners in the normal screening process, as compared to our original idea of having this kit be administered by healthcare practitioners themselves.

    Researching policies and carrying out market comparisons allowed us to identify important characteristics we needed to include, such as ease of use, accessibility and public perceptions of hygiene. Our interviews with startup inventors also enlightened us to the process of pitching, developing and marketing our proposed product.

    Consulting other stakeholders like patients and care-takers allowed us to create a plan for the future of the project after iGEM, hopefully in a COVID-free world.


    We took in all the input gathered in the steps above and consulted back with our team of supervisors throughout the project, who guided us in choosing the best ways to pursue and address these considerations - from selecting the most relevant software for protein modelling, to utilising cell-free systems in the lab (before the pandemic hit), to linking us to even more useful contacts to interview and consult, further driving our research forwards.


  • Assessing the feasibility of our product (September-October)

    Description: Though we were unable to test our biosensor in the lab due to COVID restrictions, and therefore could not physically develop our test kit, we aimed to consistently learn about product development and marketing - imagining how we would develop and implement our product in a COVID-free world. Unfortunately it is unlikely that our team will be able to continue with this project anytime in the near future as our University is still operating at reduced human capacity, but we still hope that future teams are able to benefit from all our research!


    To learn more about how to develop and market our biosensor, we had to look no further than our own Professor Nicholas Dale at the School of Life Sciences, Founder of Sarissa Biomedical biosensors!

    We had the great privilege of interviewing him and enquiring about the process, and he very kindly gave us insider info to the world of biotechnology startups.

    Notes from the interview can be found below:

    Professor Dale is also hosting a training workshop for EU PhD students about the design, risk, regulation and finding investment for biosensors. Unfortunately the workshop begins after the end of wiki freeze - however we will still be attending this workshop to learn more about the potential future of our project, even if we can’t get it onto our wiki. We also hope these notes will benefit any other iGEM teams that may be working on a similar project in the future.

    Adjustments: As you may remember, in a bid to reduce the burden on healthcare workers during a global pandemic, we switched from aiming for our test kit to be used by healthcare practitioners to the consumer.

    However, after speaking with Professor Nicholas Dale, his advice made us reconsider this proposed implementation if we were to continue this project further - home-testing kits are actually of the highest risk and therefore have the highest regulatory issues! He raised many points that made us cognizant of the risks and difficulties of manufacturing a consumer-aimed, home-based test for a disease like colorectal cancer. He also brought up some characteristics that we did not think of in our prior research - for example, if the consumer collects the wrong amount of a sample, how does this affect the result?

    He was also very kind as to share the hard work of his own company Sarissa and its development, and difficulties in the process of approving medical devices and all the factors that come into play.

    Thus, if we were to develop the implementation of our test kit further, we would initially aim for it to be authorised for use with healthcare practitioners as a diagnostic aid - going backwards a step in a way, but for the long-term benefit of patients and practitioners! The implementation of this kit could be further developed after solid evidence of its accuracy can be collected and analysed.

  • Our future plans

    Overall, it was a challenging but rewarding journey over the past few months. It was very unfortunate that the pandemic meant we could not generate our own experimental data, engage more closely with healthcare practitioners (who are undeniably very busy at this time,) or engage even more closely with health charities which are also burdened by the pandemic. We also miss the spontaneity of in-person meetings, interviews and working together! Working virtually across timezones and adapting our work process to every member’s individual schedule/other responsibilities was also a great challenge.

    However, we were able to use the time to focus on our other endeavours like Human Practices, outreach and education, which we believe are just as important in the scientific process. They greatly informed our Proposed Implementation and endeavours that we will be continuing after iGEM. We also think that the interview notes and other reports shared on this page may be a useful starting point for future teams working on similar topics: colorectal cancer, biosensors, or diagnostics in general.


  1. Arthur, J. C., Perez-Chanona, E., Muhlbauer, M., Tomkovich, S., Uronis, J. M., Fan, T-J., Campbell, B. J., Abujamel, T., Dogan, B., Rogers, A., B., Rhodes, J. M., Stintzi, A., Simpson, K. W., Hansen, J. J., Keku, T. O., Fodor, A. A., Jobin, C., Intestinal Inflammation Targets Cancer-Inducing Activity of the Microbiota, Science, 2012, 338, 120−123

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