This year iGEM Pasteur Paris attended multiple events with the purpose of spreading information about what iGEM is, inside and outside scientific fields. We decided not to limit ourselves to the Parisian region, so we travelled all around France and even to Denmark talking about our project NeuronArch. Our talks were not only with biologists but with physicists, mathematicians, chemists. We wanted also to speak with middle and high school students and even children, raise awareness on disabilities but also vulgarize our project, synthetic biology and science in order to spark vocations.
Engaging the Scientific Community
Translational Research Day
The Translational Research Day is a full day small symposium dedicated to translational research. The event was organized at Institut Pasteur (Paris) from 2007 to 2014 by the former Center for Human Immunology. Since 2015, it is organized by the Translational Research Center. This year, it focused on gathering scientists working on neuropsychology, microbiota and angering. We had the pleasure to share our ideas and present to the scientific world for the first time our team’s project NeuronArch through our first poster.
Young Researchers in Life Sciences
The Young Researchers in Life Sciences (YRLS) is one of the most important conferences of spring. We participated in the 9th edition conference held from the May 2nd -4th at Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris. Young researchers presented their projects through scientific posters, like we did, and gave us some precious advices on the experiments to come.
Viva Technology is a commercial fair dedicated to technological innovations in Paris. On may 24th, we attended the “welcome to the bionic age” conference hosted by David Aguilar Amphoux, Moran Cerf, and Ernesto Martinez Villalpando. During one hour, they spoke about bionic prosthesis and how to make, use and connect them directly to the human brain.
Members of our team flew to Denmark to attend Biofilms 8 conference held in May 27-29 in Aarhus University. The conference gathered experts from all around the world in the field of bacterial communities and biofilm way of life. We presented our poster during poster sessions to biologists, doctors, and engineers. This conference allowed us to further exchange with Françoise Van Bambeke, Doctor in Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Louvain, Belgium, who has been working for years on the pharmacological fight against biofilm. Exchanging with her confirmed us that acting on Quorum sensing to avoid biofilm formation could be an efficient approach, and she advised us to try to investigate on the advantages of our synthetic biology approach compared to classic pharmacologic solutions.
Few members of the team also participated in the 14th International Conference on Organic Electronics being held on June 18-22 in Bordeaux. ICOE brought together the most excellent researchers from the academy as well as industry to discuss fundamental aspects of organic semiconductors, demonstrate their vision of the road-map of organic electronics and to exchange ideas on future materials, technologies and applications. You may ask yourself why our team attended this conference full of physicists and chemists. For our system, we were looking for a membrane capable of confining our biofilm and conduct a signal at the same time. During this 3-days conference, we presented our project during a poster session and met many scientists who advised us to use PEDOT, a conductive polymer and who also advised us on the type of cells we should use, such as Dr. Sahika Inal, assistant professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Dr. Róisín M. Owens, currently engineering for developing in vitro biological models.
Neural Networks – From brains to machines and vice versa
The use of neural networks is not confining inside new types of prosthesis. Indeed, continuous advances in machine learning have enabled groundbreaking progress in diverse fields such as computer vision or strategy games by making use of artificial neural networks. In parallel, new technologies for recording and manipulating biological neural networks allow us to probe the behavioral function of neuronal activity in unprecedented detail.
This eventorganized by the Institut Pasteur, brought together leading experts in the fields of biology, applied mathematics and physics, aiming to bridge our current understanding of how biological and artificial neural networks operate. Naturally, participating to this event was a major boost for our project NeuronArch. We presented a scientific poster with our results and got really good feedbacks from professionals on how to push it further.
Educating and Engaging the General Public
National Science Fair - Fête de la Science 2018
The National Science Fair is held every year all over France to vulgarize science to children, teenagers, and families. This year the Pasteur Team decided to take part of this event inside the ESPCI engineering school (École Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris), hosting multiple stands around what is DNA and how you can modify organisms with synthetic biology. To illustrate this, we used candies, origami DNA to allow children and the general public to understand the potential of synthetic biology.
We organized stands, open for children and adults on different themes: “What is DNA?”, “Creation of Synthetic Biology and GMOs”, “Application of Synthetic Biology”, “iGEM and NeuronArch”. We also developed a game, an interactive comic, to help embody synthetic biology for the youngest attendants, showed them what a bacterial culture looked like and also raised awareness on disabilities on our stand "NeuronArch" by challenging children to grab multiple objects without their thumbs.
Middle School Presentation
This initiative was taken to vulgarize and spark vocations to middle schoolers. A few members of our team supervised a middle school class at the Madame de Stael School and presented them the basis of biology, and what synthetic Biology could offer in this day of age. We also supervised them and showed them in a very concrete way what laboratory manipulations are by teaching them protein crystallization.
Organized by the 3rd year bachelor’s students of the University Evry-Val-d’Essonne, the event had the ambition to reunite public and private actors of research around vulgarized broad scientific themes. Researchers from the University Evry-Val-d’Essonne and the Genopole (a biopark dedicated to biotechnology and genetic), as well as entrepreneurs in biotechnology, were reunited. The event was also open to high schoolers and the general public. Were presented articles on genetic therapy, treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, the use of phagotherapy and also the potential of synthetic biology. We were invited by the bachelor’s students to present our project NeuronArch during the day, in front of a hundred people crowd composed of high school students, researcher, and engineers. The afternoon, we discussed with professionals and students, presenting them our poster and allowing ideas to flow.
Body and Prosthesis
We participated in the event Body and Prosthesis organized by UPMC Sorbonne University, in Paris. We heard about this event through the association ADEPA. ADEPA stands for “Association de Défense et d’Etude des Personnes Amputés », which translates to « Association for the Defense and Study of Amputated People ». This national association was created in 1996 and aims to unite forces between disabled persons. They are representing the community during ministerial commissions and try to help people in their day to day life with their handicap by giving support and finding solutions. Every year, they organize multiple seminars in the big cities of France such as Strasbourg, Grenoble, and Lyon. We participated in the session organized in Paris on the theme “Assist, Repair and Replace.” We had the pleasure to attend this session, listening to the experiences of doctors, Ph. D students, amputees, and disabled persons. We also presented our project in one slide and gave a poster presentation during the breaks, getting pieces of advice and feedback from doctors and amputees at the same time.
Vulgarized video about our Kill-Switch dedicated to children
As we were working on the kill-switch of our device, we noticed that the concept of a "kill-switch" wasn't easy to understand, especially for the youngest. We decided to make a small vulgarized video dedicated to explaining what is this important part of synthetic biology. You can find all the information concerning the making of our kill-switch here .