Asia-Pacific iGEM Conference
From July 30th to Aug 3rd, we joined the Asia-Pacific iGEM Conference hosted by iGEM NCHU Taichung in Chung Hsing University. More than twenty iGEM teams from Taiwan, China, and Japan gathered around and shared the incredible projects. Lively
discussion surrounds all the time after team presentations and at posters sessions, where we gained many valuable pieces of advice from professors and other overlooking.
In the evening, teams hung out, had dinner, visited night markets, while sharing funny stories and problems encountered during the preparation of Giant Jamboree. Mouth-watering chicken fillet and freshly made pearl milk tea sure brought us closer together. We had a great time, especially with iGEM Fudan-CHINA, iGEM NAU, and iGEM XMU-China, who kindly approached us looking for the possible cooperation further in the future.
It was a precious experience and practice for us to present our project in front of so many Asia iGEMers before Giant Jamboree. Great thanks to NCHU Taichung iGEM team for hosting such a wonderful conference!!
Fig. 1. Asia-Pacific iGEM Conference.
Fig. 2. Asia-Pacific iGEM Conference.
Four-team-seminar with Mingdao, NCTU_Formosa and NTHU_Taiwan
On July 23rd, four teams from Taiwan gathered together, presented our projects in turn and exchanged feedback with each others. Fresh, creative ideas made this conference not only inspirational but also unforgettable.
We were glad to be a part of this conference taking place in NCTU. It was thrilling knowing this conference is arranged and hosted by Mingdao High School team, which has been participating and obtaining good results in iGEM.for years. 20 minutes presentation and 10 minutes questions and answer times were yielded to each team.
Mingdao aims to build low-cost, rapid-screening and accurate diagnostic device of HIV, living mosquitos is involving in this portable device! NCTU_Formosa introduced their system of balancing varieties of bacterial growth in the soil by applying corresponding amounts of bacteriocin. NTHU_Taiwan intends to regulate the population of bacteria Vibrio, which possess great potential for commercializing.
All projects are pursuing a better future for human or industries. This seminar helped all teams to re-examine the feasibility and comprehensive aspects of their projects for further improvement.
Fig. 3. Delightful seminar with NCTU_Formosa, NTHU_Taiwan and Mingdao.
Questions about BioWatcher asked by other teams in this mini-seminar:
1. Bioluminescence is too weak to penetrate tissue?
The bioluminescence used in BioWatcher has an emission wavelength of 490 nm. Although bioluminescence at this wavelength can be absorb by chromophores, experiments proved the successful
bioluminescence penetration through captured under imaging system. Besides, the fact that this mild intensity of this bioluminescence is invisible to the naked eye can ease the users’ concern of turning into green-glowing lamps.
2. Concerns about applying engineered cells in human bodies
The application of our system can be widely used in detecting soluble and insoluble ligands in the environment, living organisms and, our ultimate pursuit, in human bodies which post serious concerns. In terms of delivering engineered cells
into human body, invasive and noninvasive measures, such as injection, nasal delivery and viral therapy, are considered. However, we faced our biggest challenge--choosing the proper cell to be applied. Several aspects need to be evaluated
including lifespan of the cells, its amount in the circulating system, possible immune rejection…etc. As hard as it is, existing cellular immunotherapy is keeping our hopes up. Undoubtedly, this project is still immature. However, white blood
cells and mesenchymal stem cells are our candidates so far.
On July 16th, we visited Singular Wings Medical, a very successful award-winning biotech wearables startup, to learn about biotech industry and how our project--BioWatcher is perceived in industrial and commercial point of view.
BioWatcher is a very novel and tentative idea, though; we believe BioWatcher has potential in the diagnosis industry. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate goal where biologists bring biotech into the real world and make the world a better place. Therefore, we presented BioWatcher to Singular Wings Medical, a very successful award-winning biotech wearables startup.
While Singular Wings Medical was very impressed with our innovative idea, several interesting and important concerns and useful advice was proposed during the discussion.
It’s true that watch is not the only available option for bioluminescence detecting devices.As Singular Wings Medical suggested, manufacturing a portable handy bioluminescence detector for our project is a way easier approach than trying to alter current smartwatches or come up with a new brand of watch to compete with the existing smartwatches on the market.
We totally agree that, at the developing stage of a company, launching a portable device instead of smartwatch will become great help to the company’s finance. However, the idea of BioWatcher was partly inspired by smartwatches and we are still aiming at this incredibly huge wearable markets. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), PMR and Gartner, in 2017 alone, there are 121.7 million shipments in the wearable market, in which smartwatches took up half of the shipments. The predicted 2017-2021 CAGR of smartwatches and wristband combined is up to 24.9%, while their predicted 2021 market share is 89.7%, the highest among all wearables. "Smartwatches are on pace to achieve the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2021, reaching $17.4 billion," said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. All in all, we are targeting a vast market and, hopefully, we can bring BioWatcher to real life.
Being a successful startup owner, the manager of Singular Wing Medical, Mr. Lee, generously share his experience in starting a company. Transforming lab experiments into real product need to take up dozens of years. Even after we overcome
all the biotechnology and ethic issues, hardware development will spend us quite a while.
Therefore, he encouraged us to make plans gradually-- before our whole non-invasive real-time report blood test system become mature, we can take a step back by developing an improved and optimized blood test system and devices in the current diagnostic industry, such as micro-measurements or electrochemistry approach, to support the startup when developing our ultimate goal—BioWatcher.
We greatly appreciated this chance to learn a lot about the experience from a successful senior and we hope to have more discussion and mentor in terms of entrepreneurship.
Presentation skill is one of the most crucial parts of promoting ideas and attracting corporate sponsors. Before the meeting ended, the importance of delivering a good presentation is emphasized many times. Singular Wings Medical pinpointed the weak point of our presentation and devoted a great deal of time carefully teaching us how to make a brief persuasive pitch that catches the listeners’ attention. Lessons learned: logic, coherence, precision and painting a good story for our audience are vital. After this meeting, we revised our presentation for so many times and hopefully can bring our best show to the stage.
Fig. 1. & 2. Visited Singular Wings Medical.
About Singular Wings Medical
Singular Wings Medical is a very successful startup known for its award-winning biotech wearable products–CardiNova, a series of smart cardiovascular symptoms detector/pocketsize ECG recorder for cardiovascular-related diseases prevention and prognostic follow-up by non-invasively detecting early signs of abnormality. All data can be tracked whenever and wherever the users want to. Due to the similarity between Cardinova and Biowatcher, our team contacted the company and set up a meeting, which is proved to be very valuable and helpful. We cannot thank Singular Wings Medical enough.
Collecting professional advise from Biomedical Engineering Expert, Dr. Zong-Hong Lin
Fig. 1. Consulting with Dr. Zong-Hong Lin.
To enhance a project, opinions and insight from professions are profoundly meaningful. On August 13th, we consulted with Dr. Zong-Hong Lin, a professor in Institute of Biomedical Engineering, NTHU, who is dedicated to the research of nanosensors and nanosystem, to further improve BioWatcher.
Examining our system for countless times, our system faced a huge challenge, the difficulty of capturing bioluminescence from circulating reporter cells in the blood stream regarding the relatively low amount and mild intensity of reporter cells. Approaches such as improving the resolution of CCD camera and Increasing the amount of reporter cells introduced into the circulating system of the users are so far unfeasible. The former is only possible when technology catches up while the latter is impartical considering the balance of blood composition need to be maintained.
Dr. Lin enlightened us with the idea of pre-concentration, inspiring by a project conducted by Google X related to cancer and diseases detection using iron-oxide nanoparticles. To increase the sensitivity of BioWatcher, the idea of recalling all the nanoparticles to a single location can be applied in our project, meaning incorporating magnetic nanoparticles on the reporter cells so that the concentration of reporter cells can be temporarily increased for signal count by briefly magnetically fixing reporter cells underneath the watch long enough for the bioluminescence detecting process.
1. Google developing pill that can detect cancer (The Telegraph): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/11193990/Google-developing-pill-that-can-detect-cancer.html
2. Google is developing cancer and heart attack detector (BBC News): https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29802581”
Consulting with Doctor Hsing-Chih Chang
Fig. 1. Visited Dr. Hsing-Chih Chang.
The ultimate goal of BioWatcher is to apply this system on human to prevent late-stage cancers by early diagnosis. Therefore, we turned to Mr. Chung, a doctor who has a Ph.D. degree in molecular and cellular oncology in MD Anderson Cancer Center and currently works in Mackay Memorial Hospital for his experiences in clinical/cancer cases. What we discussed includes the potential and limitation of diagnostic biomarkers, the accuracy of diagnosis using biomarkers, and most importantly the design of BioWatcher.
1. What kind of cell is a suitable reporter cell candidate for modification?
A suitable candidate should possess properties listed:
1. Compatible with targeted human immune system
2. Can be easily modified
Prior to the meeting, white blood cell was on our list of choice. Yet, it was taken off list due to its inevitable interference with blood composition as the modified ones are introduced into humans’ circulating system. Dr. Chang suggested
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and Dendritic cells (DCs). Maturing of BioWatcher with time will give us more insight into the choice.
Known downside of MSCs-- its lifespan is not as long as we preferred—have us hesitate. However, regarding the immunoregulatory capacity of Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and the fact that it has been widely used in many cell therapies, MSCs, in this case, become the top choice for us. DCs are considered because of its antitumor immunity and the cases of Dendritic cell-based immunotherapy.
2. Mechanism for erasing all reporter cells in users is needed.
Dr. Chang strongly recommended that we design a mechanism for wiping out the reporter cells introduced in user when we ignorantly think that the reporter cell is harmless and shortly mortal while overlooking the importance of biosafety and the possible allergy responses in users. Therefore, we introduce AID, the auxin-inducible degradation system, in which targets are degraded in response to auxin, into the design of BioWatcher.
1. De Miguel MP, Fuentes-Julián S et al. (2012) “Immunosuppressive properties of mesenchymal stem cells: advances and applications.”
2. Anguille S, Smits EL et al. (2014) “Clinical use of dendritic cells for cancer therapy.”