6.5 million people die every year. It isn’t the deadly mosquito or harmful micro-organism this time, but a human being that is responsible for the Air Pollution, according to International Energy Agency (IEA). That is where Inspector NO.CO.li comes.
There are 1.5 billion cars on the roads now and by 2020, according to statistics will be 2 billion cars. If we, ‘human beings’ keep on ignoring the cars that emit unhealthy gases that mainly contribute to the air pollution, then our future lives are fairly predictable.
People across the world (in developing as well as developed countries) are killed by these harmful gases such as carbon mono oxide, nitrous and nitric oxide. These gases are known as “Silent Killers”, as one cannot see them, smell them or taste them. However, if taken in a very small amount (5-30 parts per million), one can get killed!
Therefore, iGem Peshawar team felt the need for Inspector NO.CO.li to detect these ugly gases with the help of chromoproteins, in order to save innocent people’s lives, reduce air pollution and let people live happily in a healthy way.
Inspector NO.CO.li is as handsome and active as a normal strong police detective, but it’s different because it’s bacteria and is engineered in the lab, re-designed to do a job for us rather than acting as natural E.coli causing health issues. It’s originally intended to help diseases and deaths as well as air pollution in Pakistan. Cities like Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta are counted as top polluted cities in the world, according to WEF. Therefore, we started working on this idea to save our country.
Biology was just about life in early days. Now it’s technology too. We knew that Synthetic biology can be the solution for every problem we encounter nowadays. So, our team brainstormed more than 50 ideas. Most of which were solutions to the problems we had in Pakistan, while others were related to hardware and beautification purposes.
We made a Venn diagram of several factors such as how big the problem is, it’s ‘WoW’ factor, requirements/constraints, time factor and how our product will be helpful locally and globally, we pondered on top 5 ideas, voted for the one that we loved and finally decided to work on the idea that had the strongest sweet spot; to create an easy way for detection of dangerous gases emitted from the exhaust of cars using a strip having our engineered bacteria!
We faced problems of all sizes. First and foremost, the time! It really mattered because we only had 4 months to work and compete with the teams that already had started working on their projects from the start of the year(s).
Secondly, the distribution kit (that contained DNA in dried form was our basic tool to start our project with) was supposed to be sent to all teams from the iGEM headquarters, reached too late in August to our team (which meant only 3 months were left for us to do the lab work).
Third, other kits (for transformations and mini-preps) and the competent cells (E.coli) that we ordered from abroad were not working as well, despite many troubleshoots.
So, we used the classic protocols which took even more time than we expected. However, our team had guts to cope with every problem we faced and was in full swing.
This project, however, is not completed and is in process. Although, we do have our prototype design that we believe will properly work. After its complete execution, the product will definitely get globalised and sold worldwide.
Our team was the first from Pakistan that participated in the iGEM 2016 competition and won the Bronze Medal. This does not mean we were different and genius. We only had optimistic hearts, worked 24/7 and we believed in each other.
You only have to love what you do, be sincere with your time and honest with yourself.
If you love biology, the next technology will be yours!
Sarah Farooq Khan