Team:NTU-Singapore/Human Practices


Overview & Structure

 Building Upon Our Past

Our project started from expanding the use of truncated dCas9 system we developed last year, a compact dCas9-VPR domain with its binding efficiency retained to facilitate gene activation. To expand it further, we planned to fuse this truncated Cas9 protein with DNA base editors to perform efficient DNA base change with a small protein size, potentially useful for gene editing. However, as we dived into our human practice and tried to understand its social impacts, our project has evolved greatly beyond this.

 Things Besides Science

As we were exploring the technical aspect of DNA editing, we realized that the social influence of the CRISPR/Cas technology is equally profound and important to our local community, as well as to Southeast Asia.

Singapore, being a very technologically forward country, has already envisioned gene therapy with the CRISPR/Cas system as an indispensable part of our future. For example, last year, Merck has already been issued a patent for chromosomal integration of donor DNA with the CRISPR/Cas system as a therapy [1]. Similarly, just June this year, mitochondrial replacement therapy has also taken its first step into the legalization process in Singapore, making her possibly the second country in the world legalizing such treatment [2]

Also, crowned for having the highest quality of healthcare in Southeast Asia, Singapore is also a popular destination for medical tourism. Just September this year, taxi companies in Singapore have seen a five-fold increase in the number of tourist passengers going to local hospitals [3].

As such, we personally felt the great importance of this conversation about gene editing in Singapore. Not only just researchers, but working adults, youths and even citizens of other Southeast Asian countries also hold an important piece of the puzzle in the implementation of gene editing in Singapore. Therefore, we decided to make more people aware of the gene editing technologies and to collect their opinions, taking off in our journey of human practice.


Through our human practice, we planned to achieve the following:

    1. To educate the public about CRISPR/Cas technology and gene editing. A better understanding would make
    our society more prepared for such a choice in the future.
    2. To explore and investigate the public attitude towards gene editing and our research, identifying unforeseen
    concerns from the public regarding this technology.
    3. To seek growth in our project and ensure our work is responsible for our community and for the world.

Below tells a brief summary of what we did to reach our targets.

 Education & Engagement

 First Contact - Pint of Science

What did we do?

We attended the “Pint of Science” festival and talked to the audience about gene editing and it as a therapy.

 What was our objective?

We aimed to inform the audience about gene editing and have an in-depth discussion about their concerns towards gene editing as well as the reasons behind their choices.

 What did we achieve?

We identified two most important factors in the decision-making of receiving gene therapy are safety and cost. Many also felt that RNA editing is safer and better. We started to expand our research on RNA editing technology.

 What’s our next step?

After the discussion, we crafted a survey to formally collect and analyse the awareness, acceptance and public choices on gene editing technologies. A pilot test was planned to be conducted on National Junior College (NJC) students.

 Building Ambition - NJC Outreach

What did we do?

We introduced our project to high school students at National Junior College (NJC) and discussed with them important issues in gene editing. We also collected their opinions through our survey.

 What was our objective?

We wanted to expand the students’ understanding about gene editing and start our formal survey with them, to collect the attitude towards gene editing in the youth demographic.

 What did we achieve?

We confirmed the biggest concerns among youths about gene editing are also safety and cost, and they prefer RNA editing.
We then established a team to research on ways to perform RNA editing as well as ways to reduce its cost.

 What’s our next step?

After the engagement, we further reinforced our confidence in exploring RNA editing, and planned to reach out to a larger community in Singapore, as well as other countries in the region.

 Integrated Human Practice

 The Big Picture - A Transnational Survey

What did we do?

We refined our survey through interactions with science communication professors and expanded our audience to all of our local community. Then, we identified two other targeting countries, China and Indonesia.

 What was our objective?

We wanted to study the public concerns in a more scientific manner to capture an accurate snapshot of the public attitude towards gene editing in Singapore and in Asia.

 What did we achieve?

With 581 responses from all three countries, we concluded that safety is the biggest concern, followed by cost. The public generally prefer RNA editing over DNA editing for all three countries.

 What’s our next step?

We identified that one more stakeholder in the discussion are the medical professionals. Therefore, we decided to raise public concerns to them and hear their opinions. Inspired from our results, we also formally began our journey in RNA base editing.

 Professional Ideas - Doctor Interview

What did we do?

We interviewed seasoned and training doctors and asked them for their take on the future of gene editing.

 What was our objective?

We hoped that medical experts can tell the story from a professional perspective as well as address concerns of the public, which can be their future patients.

 What did we achieve?

We learned that the difficulty of transcriptome analysis like high cost could be impinging the application of RNA editing. It is important to ensure the safety of the technology while keeping the cost low.

 What’s our next step?

To realize faster, lower-cost transcriptome analysis, we decided to develop an efficient, modification-sensitive method for RNA sequencing. Through a direct, modification-sensitive read of RNA sequence, we hoped to improve the accuracy while reducing the cost.


Through our human practice, not only did we engage with the public to inform them more about gene editing but we also have learned a lot about their thoughts and considerations in making such a decision. Such a two-way communication with both personal interactions and a scientific survey allowed us to have an accurate portrayal of the public attitude without losing the human touch.

The final results of the human practice were both tangible and experiential. It has evolved our project to be more aligned with the public concerns, all of our members also personally realized the huge responsibility of conducting research that is so close to the heart of people’s lives. In the end, we convinced ourselves that our project would bring true meanings to our community, and this would not be possible without our human practice.