Team:Tokyo Tech/Policy and Practices



Policy and Practices

What we have done




0. Important Questions beyond the Bench

1. Abstract

2. Poster Session Open to the General Public

3. MUSE TALK: Advice from Entrepreneurs

4. Evaluation of Our Educational Tool

5. Interview with the Science Magazine Newton

6. Visit to Elementary School

7. Genetics Society of Japan

8. Our Question About Biosafety


0. Important Questions beyond the Bench


Beyond the bench, our project contains a major question: how to make iGEMers and other students majoring in biology understand economics (see Understanding Economics for more detail). Our approach to this question, which was obtained from interaction with the general public, was development of educational tool for economics using E. coli. We thank this interaction which strongly influenced our scientific-project planning. Evaluation of our educational tool from students majoring in biology clearly showed the usefulness of the tool (Fig 6-1-0-1). We think that our presentation supported with BioBrick parts and modeling can be easily adapted to not only iGEMers, but other students majoring in biology, who are great human resources of innovation.

Fig. 6-1-0-1. Effects of our presentation

Through activities beyond the bench, we also encountered other questions for safety, future, and image of synthetic biology. An example of such question is how we can solve the safety problem for distribution of our educational tool. We consulted the biosafety expert, Mr. Tomoya Saito, who is working for National Institute of Public Health. He gave us a lecture on dual-use technology. After that, we asked him some questions about biosafety (Our questions about biosafety is below).


1. Abstract


We aimed at letting a broad range of people know synthetic biology. The people involved in our activities include elementary students to elderly, as well as people without any scientific background to people who majored in Computer Science. During these activities, we did a poster session and presentation using interactive visuals and understandable texts. We explained our projects, what genetic manipulation is, and what benefits synthetic biology can bring to us. The audience gave us many feedbacks about our projects, and opinions about how they think about synthetic biology. We appreciate all the people involved in our activities.


This year we participated in the following activities:

・Poster Session Open to the General Public

・Interview with the Science Magazine "Newton"

・MUSE TALK: Advice from Entrepreneurs

・Visit to Elementary School

・Genetics Society of Japan

Fig. 6-1-1-1. Phase of our Policy and Practice activity

First, we took part in a poster session held at the school festival of the University of Tokyo. After communicating with the students who majored in business, we realized that we do not know much about economics.

iGEMers know a lot about synthetic biology, but what about economics? Can we apply our ideas commercially? How can a student who has never studied economics before start to learn?

From these questions, we thought of making an educational tool for economics by using E. coli, which is familiar to iGEMers.

> Jump to Poster Session Open to the General Public


Next, we introduced our Bank E. coli project to businessmen, executives, and technicians engaged in IT company for some professional opinions at MUSE TALK.

They pointed out that economic wave should be introduced into our system for more reality. According to their advice, we improved our system to show more authenticity.

Also, many people asked questions related to safety. It was because the safety problem must be cleared in order to commercialize our ideas. They all thought it would be a big business chance, if genetically engineered E. coli can be released safely in human and nature.

We encountered two questions here: reality and safety.

> Jump to MUSE TALK: Advice from Entrepreneurs

Finally, we sent out questionnaires to the students of Tokyo Institute of Technology to confirm whether our project would help the understanding of economic system. Most of them said that they almost understood the mechanism of how economy works.

Additionally, we consulted Mr. Tomoya Saito, an expert in biosafety working for National Institute of Public Health. He gave us a lecture about dual-use technologies and useful advice on biosafety.

> Jump to Evaluation of Our Educational Tool


Understanding Economics


2. Poster Session Open to the General Public


We participated in a poster session held at the University of Tokyo on May 18th. iGEM teams from all over Japan gathered at this event and introduced their project to the visitors. Not only students and professors at the university, but also people without any scientific background came and listened to our projects. After introducing our projects, we asked visitors for feedbacks to make our projects better. Our central purpose in this event was to let people know what iGEM is, and to change the negative thinking about synthetic biology that many people have.

Fig. 6-1-2-1. A team member describing the project to visitors

2-1 The Projects

To introduce our projects to the visitors, we made a poster for each project. Using figures, we tried our best to make it easy for people from any background to understand. Besides posters for our projects, we also made an introduction to iGEM to let more people know about it.

The five projects that we introduced at the poster session were: solar battery, treatment for pollen allergy, lie detector, Bank E. coli, and fertilizer.

Solar Battery

Fig. 6-1-2-2. Bacteria-using Solar Battery Poster

Solar energy is one of the alternative sources of energy widely used in the world. In this project, we made a solar battery by using photosynthetic bacteria and current generating bacteria to generate power. Wherever sunlight shines, electricity can be generated by this solar battery. It was invented and improved in several institutes, but the low efficiency and inconvenient hardware still tend to be a problem. Therefore, we tried to improve the efficiency of the existing bacteria-using solar battery to make it practical.

Treatment for Pollen Allergy

Fig. 6-1-2-3. Immunotherapy Poster

In Japan, it is said that one in five people suffers from pollen allergy. More than twenty million people suffer from symptoms, and the number is increasing every year. In order to cure this, we thought of using E. coli in immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a recently developed treatment that can completely cure the allergy. You introduce allergen into the body in very small amounts, and by gradually increasing it, you can suppress the body′s hyper-allergic reaction. However, there are several defects in this treatment. You have to go to the hospital for treatment many times, and it takes three to five years for a complete recovery. By using E. coli, we tried to invent a faster and easier immunotherapy.

Lie Detector

Fig. 6-1-2-4. Lie Detector Poster

In this project, we tried to make a lie detector by using E. coli. By putting Na+ channel in the flagellum motor, E. coli responds to the sodium ion contained in a liar′s sweat and starts running. If the E. coli moves, it comes in contact with lysozyme and the outer membrane dissolves. Then, ATP inside the E. coli is released to react with luciferase, producing a glow.

Bank E.coli

Fig. 6-1-2-5. Bank E. coli Poster

We thought of making E. coli act as a bank by taking things in and out. We had two scenarios for this theme:

• Exchanging things between Bank and Consumer

Other than these stories, recreating the bursting of the bubble economy with E. coli was also in the plan.


Fig. 6-1-2-6. Fertilizer Poster

Micronutrient fertilizer is very important to the growth of crops. However, more than 70% of the fertilizer goes unused in soil. Phosphorus included in the fertilizer becomes insoluble by binding with metals, such as aluminum and calcium. Since plants cannot absorb these immobilized phosphorus, the phosphorus accumulates in the soil. To solve this problem, we decided to use E. coli to degrade the immobilized phosphorus into phosphoric acid, which plants can absorb. After producing phosphoric acid, E. coli stores it in its body in a polymeric form. By collecting these E. coli and extracting the polymer, we can retrieve the phosphorus left in the soil.


2-2 Results

Many visitors, especially those lacking a scientific background, reacted negatively to E. coli at first. However, by introducing the properties of E. coli, we were able to change their mind. On the Post-it notes, there were many opinions saying that they were looking forward to new inventions using E. coli. We can say that our goal, which was to inform people know and change their negative thinking about synthetic biology, has been achieved.
Click here to see visitors' opinions

Fig. 6-1-2-7. Our members discussing about the project with the visitor.
Post-it with comments are stuck on the board


3.Muse Talk: Advice from Entrepreneurs

Fig. 6-1-3-1. Our member speaking at MUSE TALK

On September 1st, we gave a presentation at a workshop called “MUSE TALK”. Managers, executives and technicians working in IT company participated in this event to learn about things outside their specialty. The contents of the presentation are listed below.

• What is iGEM?

• The trend in synthetic biology (The trend in iGEM 2013)

• The project of Team Tokyo_Tech 2013

• The development of technique that supports iGEM

(BioBrick, database related to synthetic biology, MATLAB, etc.)

• Introduction of Team Tokyo_Tech

• What Team Tokyo_Tech 2014 has been doing since the new team was organized

In the presentation, we used many pictures and figures in the slide to make it easier to image synthetic biology, which is a completely new field for them.

Fig. 6-1-3-2. Our members explaining the iGEM database and BioBrick

After the presentation, we were able to get opinions from the audience. Hearing from people working in a different field was a great opportunity for us. Some people gave us ideas of a new product which we never thought of. Also, there were people who asked questions related to safety. All the people with those questions had things in common; they all thought it would be a big business chance if genetically engineered E. coli can be released safely in human and nature.

By listening to our presentation, many audience were impressed with the technology of synthetic biology, and acknowledged it as a research which estimates future prospects. We are planning to present in this workshop again after this year’s Jamboree, so we will be glad if more people from a variety of fields come to attend. In the next presentation, we are planning to introduce the trends in iGEM2014.

Fig. 6-1-3-3. Our members exchanging opinions with the audience


4. Evaluation of Our Educational Tool

Through the activities mentioned above, we found two questions about our project. The first is whether the tool would be really useful for understanding the economic system. The second is how we can solve the safety problem (related to commercialization.)

Our approaches to these problems were questionnaire to students and interview to a biosafety specialist.
First, we sent out questionnaires to the students of Tokyo Tech to confirm whether our project would help the understanding of economic system. The results are here.


Fig. 6-1-4-1.

Fig. 6-1-4-2.

Fig. 6-1-4-3.

Fig. 6-1-4-4.

By looking at the answers in the questionnaire, we were able to have confidence that our project can help people understand economic system better than before. Although we used several scientific details related to synthetic biology, the project was understandable for students without any knowledge of this field. Therefore, we can say that our project, which is making an educational tool for iGEMers is effective and practical for all students majoring science.

From this approach, we were able to see our educational tool’s effect. We can say that this feedback gave many good effects for us.





5. Interview with the Science Magazine Newton

On June 17th, we were interviewed by the graphic science magazine Newton. Newton is one of the most popular science magazines originated in Japan. Despite its scientific focus, easy-to-understand contents and catchy photos are used, so it is read by many people regardless of age and gender. In the article, the history and requirements of iGEM were described, along with what our team has done in preparing for the Jamboree. The article is shown below (Figure 6-1-5-1).

Fig. 6-1-5-1. Picture of the Newton article
Fig. 6-1-5-2. Group photo of our team in the article


Yasashiku Wakaru Seimei no Kagaku [Easily Understandable Life Science]. (Newton supplement Mook) Tokyo: Newton Press, 2014


6. Visit to Elementary School

Our team members (Paniti, Ayaka, Gyomon, and Miyabi) took part in a catered lecture on September 8th at Ohyamaguchi Elementary School. The aim of this visit was to let elementary schoolchildren know how important DNA and protein are for our human beings, as well as the essence of synthetic biology, which is: combining genes.

6-1 iGEM card game

For this event, we created “iGEM card game” which represents the essence of synthetic biology by combiningcards. This card game has several series of cards. Each series consists of 3 to 5 cards, each card represents the key parts of an iGEM project.


The rule of this game is like poker. When we gather a whole series of cards, we can get points. By gathering them together, the player can understand how the combination of different genetic parts can be used to create living organisms with new and desired function.

Fig. 6-1-6-1. Our group member playing iGEM cards with the students

For example, one series represented Tokyo_Tech 2013’s project, “Mutant Ninja coli”. The aim of this project was to design a story by using a state switching circuit in E. coli to represent the life of ninja: switching between the state of mimicking civilian and battling with samurai. There are three characters, E. ninja, E. Samurai, and E. civilian in this story. This series consists of three parts: “state switching”,”receiving signal molecule from E. Samurai” and ”attacking E. Samurai with Shuriken”. Each of the cards represents one of the three parts (Fig. 6-1-6-2.).

These cards not only represent the nature of synthetic biology, but also has many illustrations. Therefore, the card game became very popular among the students. Some students played the game many times and asked us if they can keep the cards for themselves.

Fig. 6-1-6-2. iGEM CARD GAME

To make sure the students understood the essence of the card game, we also explained the team’s project by using slides (Fig. 6-1-6-3.).

Fig. 6-1-6-3. Slides used for explaining Tokyo_Tech 2013 project

6-2 Questionnaire

After the game, we asked the students to answer a questionnaire. Our survey consisted of the following questions:
Q1. Was the game rule easy to understand? : Easy / Cannot Say / Difficult
Q2. Was the explanation on the card easy to understand? : Easy / Cannot Say / Difficult
Q3. Have you heard of genes and proteins before? : Yes / No
Q4. What kind of image did you have about genes?
Q5. Did you know the word “synthetic biology” before? : Knew very well / A little / Not at all
Q6. Did you become interested in synthetic biology after playing the game? : Yes / No
Q7. What do you want to make by using synthetic biology?
Q8. Free comments about the game

6-3 Result of Analysis

Click here too see the result

6-4 Consideration of Safety

After playing cards with the students, we were able to have a talk with the school principal and vice principal. They appreciated us for creating cards and teaching the students about synthetic biology in a simple and approachable way.

It was their first time to learn about synthetic biology in detail, so the principals were impressed of the possibility of this field. However, they had doubts about the safety using genetically engineered creatures. Since those creatures do not exist in nature, we do not know what will happen when they are released into the wild. If something happens, it might take a long time to get the previous nature back. Many people have this fear of genetic engineering, and this leads to the bad image of synthetic biology. Based on these doubts, we explained to them the scientists’ measurements for safety. When we make a discovery, for example “iPS cells”, we consider if it is okay to use them for human or nature on a long-term basis. Just like inventing a new medicine, we have to test them on animals for more than ten years, and when the safety is secured, we decide to use them on human.

By discussing with the principals, we were able to know the public mind toward synthetic biology. We feel this image is due to the ignorance of this field. If we can get more people informed of the reality of synthetic biology, maybe we can change the general opinion. We will continue interacting with a variety of people so that more and more people can learn about synthetic biology.


7. Genetics Society of Japan

Our team members (Naoto and Riku) attended the 86th Annual Meeting of the Genetics Society of Japan. iGEM team Nagahama hosted this meeting, and 8 teams (HokkaidoU Japan, UT-Tokyo, Tokyo-Tech, TMU-Tokyo, Gifu, Kyoto, and Osaka) attended. There were three events at this meeting.

1) Exchanging opinions with other teams by using team poster
2) Presentation of this year's project
3) Discussion about iGEM JAPAN's future initiatives
Fig. 6-1-7-1. Poster of the 86th Annual Meeting of
the Genetics Society of Japan
Fig. 6-1-7-2. Group photo after the presentation

7-1 Discussion about Team Project

Each team did a presentation at the poster session on this year's or previous years' project.
Fig. 6-1-7-3. Our team poster
Fig. 6-1-7-4. Teams of iGEM Japan
Fig. 6-1-7-5. Our member presenting in the meeting

7-2 Discussion about iGEM JAPAN


We discussed about iGEM JAPAN’s future initiative at this meeting. Setting up iGEM JAPAN was committed to making it easier for iGEM teams to communicate with each other. However, the interactions between the iGEM teams have been decreasing recently, and the only event that iGEM teams gather together this year is the meetup held at Tokyo Metropolitan University in August.

We had to seek a solution for this problem. At this meeting in Nagahama, iGEM JAPAN created a Facebook page. Our future plan is to make a website directed toward the outside.

8. Our Question About Biosafety

Through the activities mentioned above, we found one question about our project : how can we can solve the safety problem (related to the commercialization. )

Our approaches to this problem were interview to a biosafety specialist.

We consulted the biosafety expert, Mr. Tomoya Saito, who is working for National Institute of Public Health. He gave us a lecture on dual-use technology. After that, we asked him some questions about biosafety.


Q1. When we use bacteria that produces harmless substances, does a biosafety or biosecurity problem arise? (Naoto)

A1. In that circumstance, it is necessary to find out whether the problem comes from the bacteria or the substances. In other words, the measurement against the problem differs depending on whether the problem is biohazard or chemical hazard.


Q2. No matter how hard we try to keep biosafety, there remains a probability that researchers themselves might abuse the technology. How can we prevent that? (Riku)

A2. The most important thing is to not provide  funding or facility to those people. For example, the researcher who has dubious funding sources or who ordered dangerous series of reagents might be surveyed. Also, the achievements and status as a researcher will be checked if they ordered synthesis of genes. In the U.S, when they have debts or criminal records, their applications will be rejected.


The lecture of an expert in biosafety taught us many things we have to pay attention to as a scientist. When we thought about the comment for the first question “it is necessary to find out whether the problem comes from the bacteria or the substances”, we came to the answer that the problem came from the bacteria we use. After this lecture, we gave close attention to the waste liquid treatment. When the waste included E. coli, we made sure it was thrown in the Biohazard waste bag. All the experiments were carried out with more than one person, so that we can check each other’s mistakes.
From this approach , we were able to learn about the points scientists need to be aware of. We can say that this feedback gave many good effects for us.