Integrated Human Practices
We are a team of interdisciplinary students who are eager to pursue the unknown. At the inception of our team, we brainstormed everything from developing medical-related platforms to bringing about the de-extinction of mammoths (that is why they are scattered on this page). Eventually, the overall team was full of enthusiasm towards cyanobacteria leading us to design our project, OCYANO: a sustainable solution to enzyme production.
As the introduction of sustainable technologies in industry is often associated with hurdles and challenges, we made it our primary goal to thoroughly research the possibility of our application on an industrial scale.
Our Integrated Human Practices efforts came from our desire to explore and identify the challenges of developing an application
and subsequently turning it into a successful business. We aimed to develop our idea as best as possible by consulting academia
and by identifying and tackling the challenges associated with turning a proof-of-concept into an actual start-up. During every
stage of the project, from the initial brainstorming to the final industrial design, we consulted experts in academia, industry,
and business development. After each feedback opportunity, we wholly evaluated the input we received and made adjustments to the
purpose, design, and execution of each aspect of the project.
Scroll down to learn more about the feedback received from each expert during the different stages of the project.
Stage 1: From Brainstorming to Initial Concept
During the first stage of the project, we concentrated on receiving feedback about the feasibility and relevancy of the technology we were involved with. After we came up with a first rudimentary idea, we turned to academia and business developers to help us better understand the issue we wanted to tackle and to receive feedback on the solution we came up with.
We put together an advisory board of eight KU Leuven professors with expertise in the fields of synthetic biology, protein engineering, bacteriophage, and computational protein design to gain feedback on multiple ideas that sprung from earlier brainstorming sessions.
♦The cyanophage-cyanobacteria project is feasible from a technical standpoint.
♦It is necessary to conduct more research on cyanobacteria and why they would be a good alternative for protein production compared to current systems.
♦Gain a deeper understanding of the issue you want to tackle.
♦We conducted more research on cyanobacteria and identified the main bottlenecks preventing the common use of these organisms in industry that are: slow growth rate and difficult cell lysis.
♦We turned to experts from VITO to learn more about sustainable technologies.
VITO (Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek) or in English, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research is an independent research center located in Mol, Belgium. We had the opportunity to talk to Metin Bulut, R&D professional and Business Development Manager, to learn more about fossil fuels, alternative bio-based technologies, and the challenges associated with implementing these.
♦The current economy is based on fossil fuels; implementing alternative fuels will, therefore, have an enormous impact on our marketplace.
♦Implementing new technologies is a system story where a big part of the challenge is changing the entire value chain of a product. For example: if you’d want to use wood as an energy source, not only does the technology matter but also where you’ll grow, how you’ll store, and how you’ll transport the trees.
♦We decided we wanted to further investigate these identified challenges of implementing new technologies, so we made the decision to heavily focus on entrepreneurship and the industrialization of our technology.
Stage 2: From Initial Concept to Proof-of-Concept
The second stage of the project was centered around the development of the proof-of-concept. During this phase, we consulted academics and investors in multiple fields of expertise to guide us and help us understand the industrial value of the application.
Prof. Dr. Bram Van de Poel and his entourage
Prof. Van de Poel is the group leader at the Faculty of Bio-Science Engineering at KU Leuven. His expertise lies in molecular plant physiology, but he also has experience in cyanobacteria research.
♦Look for a saltwater cyanobacterial strain that has a characterized cyanophage.
♦Advice on culturing conditions of cyanobacteria.
♦Advised us to look into the effect of salt concentrations on protein denaturation.
♦We decided to investigate the effect of increasing salt concentration on YFP expression for our Parts.
♦We turned to Prof. Dr. Arnout Voet for advice on protein denaturation in saltwater.
Prof. Dr. Arnout Voet
Prof. Voet is a researcher at the Faculty of Science at KU Leuven and an expert in computational protein design and structural biology.
♦He mentioned that salt concentrations might be too low to have any effect on protein denaturation, yet it is worth to confirm this.
♦We decided to investigate the effect of increasing salt concentration on YFP expression for our Parts.
Prof. Dr. Rob Lavigne
Prof. Lavigne is a group leader at the Faculty of Bio-Science Engineering at KU Leuven and recognized worldwide for his research on bacteriophages. We met with him on multiple occasions to seek his advice.
♦Look for a salt water cyanobacterial strain that has a characterized cyanophage.
♦In order to determine the exact site of insertionit is best to conduct more research on the phage S-TIP37 genome.
♦Based on an extensive literature study we decided to use phage S-TIP37.
♦We conducted a full analysis of the phage S-TIP37 genome. See the full result here.
Capricorn Partners and DMC Biotechnology
Capricorn Partners is a venture firm located in Leuven, Belgium. We had the opportunity to pitch our project to the board of The Capricorn Sustainable Chemistry Fund (CSCF). CSCF is one of Capricorn Partners’ venture funds, targeted at new developments in sustainable and novel feedstocks, chemical and advanced materials, processes, and products. After this pitch, we were introduced to Matt Lipscomb, CEO of DMC Biotechnology, an innovative start-up in the field of biomanufacturing.
♦Research the current enzyme market and pick a specific market to target.
♦The food and household care markets could be interesting since these are the biggest.
♦We need to work out more numbers regarding the yield and financial costs of our application.
♦We received funding for our project by Capricorn Partners and DMC.
♦We modeled the final product yield of our application. Read more about it here.
♦It was the onset of an extensive business plan to analysis the enzyme market and the determine the costs associated with scale-up. Read the final results here.
Stage 3: From Proof-of-concept to Industrialization and Business Development
Towards the third stage of the project, we started to further explore the industrialization possibility of our application. We started working on the business plan and began researching the steps required to turn our proof-of-concept into a prototype, and then into a scalable product. We talked to experts in the field of business development, marketing, and innovation consulting to guide us in writing the business plan. We also met with ethics and engineering professors to advise us on bioethics and biosafety.
Bram Perdu is the Innovation Manager at Leuven Research & Development, the knowledge and technology transfer office of KU Leuven. We arranged a meeting with him to understand the main steps that need to be taken for one to start a company.
♦Business plans usually follow a general structure, but it is advised to customize it to fit your product appropriately.
♦We created a first general outline of the business plan and created a scaffold in collaboration with the iGEM team of UNSW Australia. Read more about the collaboration here.
Jean-Paul Gueneau de Mussy
Jean-Paul Gueneau de Mussy is an innovation consultant and the CEO of Materials-Innovation, a service platform that supports young entrepreneurs with novel ideas on their problem definition, concept development, market analysis, and implementation.
♦Do not try to target multiple markets at the same time: first, penetrate a niche market and then diversify further.
♦Based on this advice, we identified the brewing industry as an exciting market since it keeps growing. Also, from a Belgian perspective, the market has a strong domestic base. ♦Our target product is protein alfa-amylase, commonly used in the brewing industry. Read more about it in the business plan by clicking here.
Sander Crijns is a master’s student in Law and an intern at Legal Affairs for Technovation Hub, a non-profit specialized in supporting innovative student teams with accessible services. We approached him to learn more about the legal frameworks that exist in Belgium regarding the start-up environment for the business scaffold we were developing.
♦The choice of the legal structure (BV, NV, or VOF) of a company in Belgium is an important decision because it can have major consequences in terms of income, accounting, and liability.
♦We decided to structure the business plan according to the legal structure of a VOF (Vennootschap Onder de Firma) due to the financial benefits. Read more about it in the business plan here.
Irene Roozen is lecturer Marketing at the Department of Marketing at KU Leuven, Brussels Campus. We met with her to gain insights in marketing concepts and to receive advice on the Business Model Canvas we set up.
♦Keep the text in the model to a minimum; use more keywords and use more visual communication.
♦We made the business canvas more visually appealing by adding icons.
♦We shortened the content and used bullet points. Read the full Business Model Canvas here.
Prof. Dr. Pascal Borry
Prof. Pascal Borry is the program director of POC Bioethics in the Faculty of Medicine in KU Leuven. We consulted him to give us a more in-depth view of bioethics and to help us investigate the ethical implications brought by our project to society.
♦Safety can become a concern since there may be unforeseen circumstances that we cannot control when using GMO’s and GMM’s.
♦How can we find the right balance between ethics, safety, and innovation?
♦What risk of fear do movements like DIY biology and biohacking create?
♦We researched the current policy regarding biosafety and developed a strategy to improve our biocontainment. Read the results here.
♦We mentioned the ethical concerns of DIY biology during the DIY thermocycler workshop we organized. Read more about the workshop we held here.
The Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission is responsible for the implementation of European Union laws covering the safety of food and other products that can potentially adversely impact consumers’ rights and people’s health. With the uncertainty posed by the use of GMOs or GMMs, our team requested the consulting of the DG to explain to us the policies surrounding this field.
♦Authorization should first be granted before an individual can place GMOs for food use, food containing or consisting of GMOs, and/or food produced from or containing ingredients from GMOs. After this authorization, labeling is required.
♦If you plan to release completely purified enzymes to the market, labeling is not necessary. However, the product should be 100% pure.
♦In conjunction with the TRIZ matrix, we identified membrane technology as the key to low-cost enzyme purification.
♦We consulted Prof. Vankelecom for information regarding current membrane technologies.
Prof Dr. Ivo Vankelecom
Prof. Vankelecom is head of the Centre for Membrane Separations, Adsorption, Catalysis, and Spectroscopy for Sustainable Solutions at KU Leuven. We met with him concerning a fundamental problem in our application; the extraction of produced enzymes from the solution.
♦Membranes are a cheap and low energy method of enzyme purification.
♦For the purposes of our project, we identified two types of filtration techniques: ultra-and microfiltration.