About this project
Show list of needs
Entrance to the conference in Boston
With 1200€ we will be able to pay for two of our participants to enter the final conference in Boston, to present our concept and obtain a larger audience and impact for the project.
Additional materials for the work in Africa
Reagents and equipment that will allow us to analyse soil samples, enabling us to draw conclusions in the moment and design new experiments to carry out, without waiting for later analysis in Madrid.
This money will help us fund laboratory costs. Developing a new technology is the base of our proposal, and for that it is vital to have the right materials.
Maintenance in Africa
This item will help us make up the costs of our travel and maintenance during the research trip in Cameroon. Flights and other additional costs have already been covered through other means. This trip is key for understanding the everyday reality of cholera.
Additional research materials
With more funding we will be able to carry out more tests to create a more robust system. This includes properly studying the ranges of detection, and comparisons with other methods. All these tests will help to facilitate acceptance of the system by professionals in the area.
|Total||€ 3.000||€ 10.800|
Did you know that water-related infectious diseases cause more than half a million deaths every year?
Even though in the richest areas of the planet diseases like cholera are erradicated, in other regions more than 140,000 people pass away every year. What is the reason? How can you help to reduce this number?
Our project aims to face this problem through the development of new technologies and close collaboration with local communities in the affected areas.
With your help, we can turn this project into a reality. This crowdfunding will help fund research, work on the ground and the spread of new knowledge.
Want more information? Keep reading!
Get to know the project
The world is changing, and that involves us. Biotechnological development is transforming the way we relate to our environment, and it can help us face the challenges the future brings us.
The struggle against infectious diseases that wreak havoc in the most disadvantaged areas of the planet is more urgent than ever. These diseases are preventable with early detection that allows a quick response to stop it spreading.
Despite the existence of powerful sensing tools, these are beyond the scope of the places where they are most needed. This is precisely the problem that we aim to solve with our project: the creation of an effective, affordable and easy-to-use method for the detection of water-related diseases in areas that lack infrastructure. Our current priority is cholera, but we plan to make this technology the base for further detection of other similar illness.
AEGIS Project: Aptamers technology
The name we chose for the AEGIS Project (Aptamer Evolution for Global In situ Sensing) represents the key technology that our team will use to perform our task: aptamers - molecules with enormous potential that are shaking up the biosensing field. Basing our research on them and other cutting-edge technologies (like deep-learning and laboratory robots), we will develop a way of sensing cholera that optimizes the action protocols in developing countries, as it requires a lower economic investment and less time and specialized labour. In addition, this technology will be reproducible in low-resource conditions, resulting in higher autonomy for local clinics.
A solution for the real world
Technology, even when highly efficient in theory, is useless if not applicable to the real world. That is why it is vital to not forget the social dimension when planning a real intervention in the world. Our project aims to be efficient and respectful with local communities, adapting to the real needs of people and seeking to develop a practical tool - something that will be used. To achieve this, several team members will work on the ground in African Cholera Treatment Centers (Cameroon) to understand the reality of the problem, collect feedback from local experts about current detection methods and gain a community perspective of these diseases.
Put us on the spot
Visibility and recognition are crucial to taking our project where it is needed. To reach this goal, we have decided to take part in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, the perfect platform to put us on the spot.
iGEM is the biggest competition of biotechnological entrepreneurship, with representation of more than 362 universities from all over the world. Throughout a whole year, multidisciplinary teams formed of students from various diverse academic backgrounds develop and manage real research projects. This involves taking charge of all that scientific research entails: finding funding, choosing objectives, designing the solution and carrying out experiments that show its viability. At the end of the year, the teams travel to Boston, where they present the obtained results to an international audience, showing the quality of the research and of their universities' education.
Spain has a scarce representation, with only four teams (two university ones) instead of the 10 teams that other European countries present. This is something that we want to change, reclaiming the place of our national scientific reseach in the global scene.
Main features and goals of the crowdfunding campaign
AEGIS is based on one premise: we make cholera "AptaSensors" for developing countries. This implies the achievement of three fundamental objectives: Using aptamers, a revolutionary biosensing technology, to design cholera sensors adapted to low-resource areas; creating an automatic aptamer discovery system that will allow us to progress from cholera to other water-related diseases; and working on the ground with local communities in Cameroon to gain a real understanding of the problem, by collecting feedback about the current state of cholera detection and treatment.
THE CORE OF THE PROJECT: APTAMERS
Aptamers are a cutting-edge technology that is bursting into the synthetic biology field. These versatile elements are single-stranded DNA molecules of a short length that contain the most important information in nature: our genetic code. Nonetheless, instead of using DNA for the transport of information, our aptamers adopt defined tridimensional structures that allow them to join to their targets in a very stable and specific way. These targets range from small molecules to complex multimeric structures. What we do is genetically design this shape to make the aptamer join the molecule that we design, in this case, cholera. The unique role that DNA has in nature fills aptamers with incredible features, making them robust, stable and cheap to produce.
ROBOTS AND APTAMERS
Our initial product will prevent contact with cholera, with the potential to avoid thousand of cases in developing countries... but there is more than that. Together with the sensors, the AEGIS Project entails the design of automatic protocols for pipeting robots that allow them to discover new aptamers every day, leading us to expand detection to other preventable diseases. For that we will use the OpenTrons-2, an affordable and standardized pipeting machine, automating the entire aptamer-discovery protocol. All the information that we gather will be published with a Creative Commons license, so this system will not only be useful for us, but will also be open to everyone who wants to get into aptamer production.
DEEP LEARNING AND APTAMERS
To understand aptamers we need to understand their tridimensional structures. Unfortunately, trying to characterize them experimentally would take longer than a lifetime. So, we need another way, and this is AI (Artificial Intelligence). Our team will develop and train a deep-learning algorithm to predict and optimize tridimensional DNA structures faster than any traditional processor, using only raw data, a program and its artificial mind.
Why this is important
Technology has always been part of our history; we have walked a long way to reach this point. Since mastering fire we have developed stone-based technology, metals, steam, combustion engines and, more recently, the use of silicon in electronics. Every step has been a game-changer, expanding our minds and taking us to the next stage. We will not stop now. Today, our revolution takes place in the biotech- nological field.
All revolutions bring benefits and problems, including this one. The development and use of technologies has brought with it important issues that cannot be ignored - inequality, pollution, scarcity of resources, etc. - but it also provides the means to fix them. We have the tools to understand our environment, to engage with it and live together in harmony. We can make the world a better place to live in.
Technology where it is needed
As happened with personal computers, the biotechnological revolution must now face the challenge of accessibility. It makes no sense to develop technologies that cannot reach the places where are most needed due to their high cost, fragility or special knowledge requirements. Rural areas that lack resources suffer most from the infectious diseases that have already been eradicated in countries with better infrastructure, so we must find ways to prevent them.
All support has a reward! In addition to helping us make our project a reality, all contributions will receive rewards like merchandise of the team, or even a guided visit to our lab. Physical rewards will be delivered at the end of Round 1 of fundraising. And remember: when doing the income statement, contributors can claim back between 30% and 75% of their donations. For more information, check the fiscal calculator of Goteo.
Material rewards can only be sent to peninsular regions. However, international supporters can contact us at email@example.com explaining their particular situation, and we can see what we can do.
We are a multidisciplinary university team, composed of 13 students from the four most prominent universities of Madrid. Our members come from eight different academic backgrounds, creating a highly specialized and qualified team to solve the diverse problems that can arise.
We are grateful for the support and advice of great national researchers, some of them staff of the National Biotechnology Center (Centro Nacional de Biotecnología), the Ramon y Cajal Reseach Institute and of several labs at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. All of them support us in various ways, from allowing use of their laboratories to scientific and technical assessment.
To perform our work on the ground, we are collaborating with the "African Institute for Open Science and Hardware" and we are particularly helped by Thomas Hervé Mboa, one of the main actors in encouraging the development of African open science.
The team Madrid_UCM 2019 is the continuation of its predecessor from the 2018 iGEM competition. Last year's project "The internet of biothings" started us off on using aptamers in synthetic biology, and took the finalist position in Open category - a very strong finish for a newcomer team.
This project involves highly complex research. The money we hope to raise with this crowdfunding will finance the final part of our work, but to reach this point we have depended on the support of a great number of people.
We cannot thank enough all our sponsors for the support they have given us, whether financial or through other means, which has permitted us to reach this point.