Integrated Human Practice
Besides all the work in the lab during our project we also faced the important task to involve the influence of society in our work. Our integrated human practice work included to inform ourselves about the possibilities of cancer prevention, discussions with the public at certain events and the exchange with experts in our field of research about our project, followed by the integration of their proposals into it.
At the beginning of our project, our aim was to build different constructed bi-specific antibodies against colorectal cancer. Therefore, we decided to inform ourselves about this type of cancer. Before the formation of colorectal cancer there are certain possibilities for prevention. It was important for our project to look at this aspect to sensitize ourselves about the risks that promotes cancer and also how to support people with cancer and how to inform the public. The Felix-Burda foundation deals with these problems, therefore we decided to get in contact with them and gather important information. A well-known fact is that an unhealthy lifestyle, like the consumption of fast food and cigarettes, promotes the formation of cancer. Since the foundation was founded and started with their informational campaign, the number of incidence of colorectal cancer decreased. Their campaign included the creation of the colorectal cancer month in May, which engages other organizations like hospitals, health organizations and doctors in general to inform their patients about the risks and possible preventions of cancer. Another project is called “Nationaler Krebsplan” in which they are working together with the ministry of health to develop further early diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Additionally they award scientists, researching for new therapies and treatments for colorectal cancer, with a special price, the so-called “Ehren-Felix”.
Another expert in the field, Dr. Thomas Simon, supported us further with the design of our constructs. He works as the head of the molecular biology at DIARECT AG, a biotech company that develops and establishes standardized large-scale production of recombinant and native proteins for diagnostics. They also developed Escherichia coli and mammalian cell systems for the expression of their recombinant and native proteins. Therefore, he was able to give advice in finding a suitable expression system. He explained their different advantages and limitations and how to maximize production according to his extensive experience. Especially with our aim to express our proteins in E. coli he could give us important advices, since he already established such cell systems in the company. Dr. Simon also helped us with the right choice of the expression vectors and different methods to test the effectiveness of our bi-specific antibody.
We also had several discussions with Prof. Georg Fey, former head of the immunology department in Erlangen, who is still working in the field of recombinant antibodies. His current project is to develop so called triplebodies with dual targeting of CD33 and CD123 for the treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He also visited our Meet Up to learn more about our project and discussed it with us. Furthermore, Prof. Fey was so kind to give an interview in which he emphasized the impact a linker with its length and composition may have on the efficacy of a fusion protein and especially on antibody derivatives. This also raised the idea in our team to model different linker lengths with different linker compositions to gather more Data. He also made us aware of the possible immunogenicity of the Spy-Tag/Spy-Catcher System, joining the binding domains of the bi-specific antibody. To address this issue we constructed a neuronal network that is able to predict an allergen based on the amino acid sequence. Additionally, Prof. Fey explained the advantages of different mammalian cell systems for protein expression and how they are established in the industry.
Our team also received a lot of help with our simulations from experts. Prof. Sticht provided us with several literature sources and Dr. Horn gave us the primary script for our simulations.
Last but not least, we received a lot of advice from our PI Prof. Thomas Winkler. Prof. Winkler himself is a geneticist with a special focus on selection processes revolving around B cell maturation and associated antibody-dependent immune responses. He supported the project from the beginning onwards with discussing our ideas and recommending experts which he thought to be useful for our project. Prof. Winkler also gave our team the possibility to work in his laboratory and was always interested in discussing new upcoming data or problems to progress the project.
We also aimed to bring the relatively new field of bispecific antibodies as a potential curatives for to date hard to treat diseases into public. Therefore, we got the chance to participate at the Day of Immunology (DOI) with our own information booth, where passerby could inform themselves about our project and discuss it with us. Also the “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften” Human Practice gave us the opportunity to get into contact with people not involved in the scientific field. In both occasions we received incredible feedback and support for our project, really supporting the feeling that our project has an impact. Albeit the fact, that those people did not necessarily have a background in molecular biology talking to these people was really instructive and gave us personally the feeling that our project is worth working on. While all the discussions were helpful on their own, through the DOI we also got in contact with another expert in the field of immunology, Prof. Jäck. He engaged into a very interesting discussion and expressed his support, as he thought our project to be an excellent approach for targeting colorectal cancer and potentially other diseases with our “plug and play” system.
Day of Immunology
The first Day of Immunology was launched by the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS) in 2005 in order to raise public awareness for the role immunology has for health and well-being. In support of this event, scientists of the Friedrich-Alexander University have been involved since the beginning by organizing a big information booth in the city centre. Interested people could stop by and inform themselves about the human body’s response to infection, further their knowledge on vaccinations and the immune system in general. The visitors were invited to ask questions and gain better insight into current research. In addition, the organizers offered a hands-on program for children.
We, the iGEM team Erlangen, had the opportunity to take part in the Day of Immunology to inform passerby about iGEM and our current project. Additionally to make the public more aware of the diversity of synthetic biology, we cooperated with the iGEM teams from Marburg Marburg, Strasbourg Strasbourg, Tübingen Tübingen and BOKU-Vienna Vienna by presenting their projects. We were able to enthuse many people and also discussed our topic and the general context of synthetic biology extensively. In addition, we used this opportunity to exchange with the organizers from the Molecular Immunology Department of the University Hospital Erlangen and several graduate colleges who gave us valuable input to our project and promised to support us.
Overall our team benefited from this day by receiving some criticism which we will consider in our future experiments, but mostly by getting positive feedback.
Long Night of Science
The Long Night of Sciences (German: Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften) is one of the largest science publicity and awareness events in the metropolitan region Nuremberg and the largest (Long Night) of its kind in Germany. More than 20,000 people visited various scientific institutions in the region with tours through the laboratories and institutes giving the general public the opportunity to discover what researchers are currently working on at the Friedrich-Alexander University and Max Planck institute for example. It offered us the opportunity to introduce our project to the visitors and inform the public about our immune system and cancer in general.
To do so, iGEM FAU_Erlangen designed an escape room and a card game, which revolves around the theme of the immune system’s fight against cancer. Additionally we presented posters explaining the different immune cells of our body, the basic concept of our project and also the projects of our iGEM collaborators from Marburg, Strasbourg,Tübingen and BOKU-Vienna Vienna.
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death. Nevertheless people surprisingly know little about cancer therapy and which behaviors abet cancer or are helpful to avoid cancer. To educate the visitors in an entertaining manner we created a card game. For us it was important that the card game is easy to understand, appealing for people of all ages and that the playing time is short enough, so it can be used in different scenarios.
The card game consists of four different card types: different cancer types, different treatment options and so called„additional cards” each, which describe the behaviors and either help the cancer or the treatment. As in real life the different treatments vary in their strength towards the respective cancer types. To optimize the learning effect, we have short information sentences at the bottom of every card.
At the beginning of the game the person who plays „the cancer” pulls two „cancer cards” and three „additional cards” for the cancer, the other player pulls two „treatment cars” and three „additional cards” for the treatment. The „cancer” player then decides for one cancer type to attack with and the other person has to pick the treatment fighting this specific cancer the best. With the „additional cards” like „smoking”, „overweight”, „endurance sports” or „precautionary investigations” the cancer and the treatment get stronger. In the end the person who was stronger over all rounds, wins.
During the Long Night of Sciences we additionally hosted an exciting time in our self-planned escape room. Groups of 5-7 people were “locked up” for 20 minutes and needed to manage three different tasks to escape. The whole game aimed to make the participants playfully explore our topic by solving the tasks.
To solve the first puzzle they had to count and sort laboratory material. From this a numerical code was generated which opened a black box containing further materials, notes and documents to solve the second puzzle. The second and third puzzles covered intestinal health and were number and word puzzles. The information for solving the puzzles was hidden in the room to be found by the participants.
If all tasks were solved successfully, on time the team could open the combination lock to the back-room door. Successful participants were rewarded with an information video about our iGEM project and a small reward.