The Beginning

During this years iGEM competition, we were involved in the making of a informational video in cooperation with several other iGEM teams around the world.

It all started when Lars-Christian (a former iGEM team member turned superviser from our team) told us that Cornell University was considering making a collaborative podcast video as part of the human outreach aspect of iGEM. It didn’t take long for us to decide that we wanted to participate because it sounded like a fun and exciting project to work with.

After the initial emailing and formal introductions we had a series of hangouts on google+ which enabled us to see and speak to each other face to face. This helped the process, it would probably have been a rather difficult task to achieve the same level of productivity and cooperation over email, when several different people from all around the world are involved in decision making.

The Task

Very early it was decided that the product of our labor should be focused on the ethical aspects of synthetic biology but also teach the public about iGEM and synthetic biology in general. That we as scientist take the ethical issues regarding genetic manipulation seriously. The “problem” that we ended up wanting to investigate was GMO’s and the way they are perceived by the public.

The Idea

At first we talked about making a movie where the different teams would contribute with their part and the editing would be spread out among the teams. This approach was abbandoned though and each team was then tasked with producing their own movies.

After a couple of weeks of planning, writing scripts and making mission statements for our movie we were ready to shoot the first set of interviews.
By making this video we hope that the average population might understand or at least appreciate our efforts to make a better world, and not perceive our hard work as a mean to corrupt the natural order of things.

The Message

The purpose of this video is to build a bridge between scientists and the general public. Using it as a way to inform people in general about the ethical and philosophical aspects of genetic modification and how human technological advancement has enabled us to manipulate naturally occurring systems into workhorses of great benefit to modern society.

By openly discussing the issues that arise dealing with GMO we hope to remove the stigma that has surrounded the field for a long time and try to dispel any prejudices that people might have. We want to achieve this by showing the world what scientists think about the issues regarding genetic manipulation.

The Video

The video will focus on the way humans have taken advantage of the fact that microbes behave as small molecular machines. We will take a look at what makes these machines “alive” by interviewing Martin Hanczyc who is a specialist on fundamental living systems.

In our interview with Martin Hanczyc we will focus on what it means that something is alive and how life is “simply” a set of chemical reactions happening under thermodynamically favourable conditions.

One can not deny that the biotechnology industry is big and ever growing. One of the key players on the market is Novo Nordisk who produce insulin for diabetes patients using genetically modified organisms. We wanted to hear what a global company like Novo Nordisk has to say when faced with the ethical dilemmas that arise on the field of synthetic biology. We believe it is important to show that companies like Novo Nordisk are not just out to generate money, but are actually striving to better the lives of people around the world. We had the chance to interview Esper Boel who is vice president of the biotechnology group at Novo Nordisk and have more than 30 years of experience in the field. From our interview with Esper we learned that the people working at Novo Nordisk are dedicated and hard working on making peoples lives better.

You can see the short documentary below. Enjoy.