Team:NTU-Singapore/Best HP


Best Human Practice

We nominate our human practice to compete for the best human practice award, as this year, our human practice has become our motivation for the majority of our research and is at the heart of our iGEM project. Our human practice is extensive with profound impacts. If not for human practice, our project would not be as so thorough-going and forward-looking as it is today. Here are some of the highlights of our human practice.

Interaction with Dimensions

Firstly, not only did we actively engage with different stakeholders in our local community about gene editing and educated the local public to obtain meaningful opinions about their acceptance towards the technology, our engagement has been expanded to a much larger region outside Singapore. We are aware that Singapore is a country of a limited landscape but with great regional and international influence, thus our efforts in education and collecting opinions, cannot afford to be limited to our local community. Moreover, as Singapore is the popular destination for medical tourism in Asia, we felt that it is important to reach out to as many citizens in the region about gene editing and hearing all of the different opinions. To achieve this, we collaborated with the University of Indonesia, which helped us to organize a public education and engagement for our project in Indonesia. On top of that, we also conducted our survey in three different countries of Singapore, Indonesia, and China, taking our project to a geographic scale far beyond Singapore.

Also, our public engagement is aiming for our future. As part of our public education, we purposely reached to the young adults at National Junior College. We aimed both to obtain innovative opinions from young minds, which was later proven to be of great value for the progress of our project, as well as to inspire the youths of the nation to participate in and contribute to the future development of gene editing technologies, which was a great success as indicated by the huge interest of and numerous questions from the participants. Moreover, as part of our professional interview, we interviewed a group of training doctors in addition to seasoned ones in practice. While the experienced doctors are definitely more knowledgeable and are better experts to advise us, we believe that it is equally important to hear what future doctors think of our project, as they will be the ones facing the patients and advising them about the therapy. The feedback was indeed of thought-provoking and inspired us to further improve our research.

 Rigorous Study of Our Society

Any conclusion drawn from the public must be rigorous, otherwise, a fallacious or oversimplified inference could lead the project to a wrong direction. We refused to comfortably accept the initial observations from our engagement as the audience that we interacted only constitutes a small demographic profile, and the sample size is too small to draw a convincing conclusion. To investigate the most current public opinion about gene editing in our region, we later conducted a survey carefully designed to minimize bias and elicited more than 500 responses from three selected countries —Singapore, Indonesia, and China. Proper data analysis was then conducted to discover the trend, establish correlation and validate the conclusion. Not only did our survey highlight to us what the preferred choice of gene editing is in our local community and the importance of different factors in decision making, but through contrasting with other nations, it also measured the relative level of acceptance of Singaporeans towards gene editing as compared to the region. Such a transnational analysis really helped us to gauge the local attitude towards gene editing in Singapore and advised us about the essential aspects to improve our project. With a scientific survey method, we are assured of the validity and justifiability of our conclusion, which would lead our project in the right direction.

 At the Heart of Our Project

Ultimately, it is the people who will benefit from our research. What the people think is really important as the public’s attitude plays an indispensable role in affecting government decisions, as seen from Singapore’s dialogue with the public regarding implementation of mitochondrial replacement therapy. Therefore, it is essential that we incorporate public interest into the early stage of our research to allow for its potential application in the future. The initial design of our project was only focused on achieving base editing in DNA. However, after a series of public engagement activities, we have learned more about the public interest — RNA editing and integrated it into our project. After hearing from medical professionals about their concerns regarding the high cost of RNA sequencing in future diagnosis, we further improved our project by including an efficient, less costly RNA sequencing techniques. As such, our human practice evolved our project to explore new solutions that better serve the need of the people. It is truly remarkable that we reached so much further than what we started off along the way, with human practice being a driving force and playing a principal role at every turning point of our journey. Such a transformation made our human practice an indeed integral part of our project.


For the reasons mentioned above, we feel that our human practice not only satisfies the criteria for medals but also epitomizes how researchers should engage in conversations with the rest of our society. First, with both scientific survey and interpersonal interaction, we believe our findings in human practice is generalizable yet retains the human touch. Second, by having discussions with all stakeholders in gene editing, we obtained a good understanding of the big situation, and conduct research that stays connected with society. Last, by targeting our human practice at a larger geographic scale and even time scale, our project will not only be catering to the need of the people here and now, but also the people in the entire world in the time ahead.