Team:HKUST-Hong Kong/Overview


Team:HKUST-Hong Kong -


Human Practice

Our iGEM team this year has two main focuses for our human practice. First, we intend to gain greater insight into people’s perspectives on synthetic biology through means other than surveying. Second, we wanted a human practice event that could promote both synthetic biology and our project. Bearing these two goals in mind, we have conducted two human practices this year – individual interviews and a presentation to the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.


Our last year iGEM human practice team conducted a survey among Hong Kong people regarding their perception of synthetic biology. However, the result revealed that most participants had little knowledge about the term "synthetic biology". Due to the difficulties in forming constructive ideas from this kind of result, we wanted something that can allow us to get a deeper understanding of people's attitudes toward synthetic biology, regardless of their backgrounds. Thus, the idea of interviews was finally adopted. Interviews allow for flexibility and greater interaction, we hope to be able to comprehend people’s perspectives of synthetic biology better. By targeting four distinctive individuals – one politician, one journalist, one university student, and one upper secondary student, we intend to investigate the diversity of perspectives in depth, and we hope that our interviews can be used as a foundation for further human practices.

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The steady increase in wealth of East Asian nations during the past few decades has seen the population transition towards diets comprising more fats and less fibre. And there is general consensus among the scientific and medical community that such a diet leads to higher incidence of colorectal cancer. Public health bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS) therefore predict that current increasing trends in colorectal cancer will continue.

Hong Kong, being a region that started developing earlier, witnessed a 190% increase in the crude rate of colorectal cancer incidence between 1983 and 2006. (See this document.) It is on track to overtake lung cancer soon as the deadliest form of cancer in Hong Kong.

We understand that synthetic biology will likely have an important role to play in near-future developments of cancer therapies and we feel our local community need to know about this. Thus, it was decided to involve interacting with the local cancer therapy community in a certain way in at least one of our human practices. The result is the preparation of a presentation to the staffs at the Hong Kong Cancer Fund. Its purpose is to first educate our audience about what it means to perform synthetic biology and to introduce ways synthetic biology can improve future cancer therapy.

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