The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [1] adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, offers a mutual plan for promoting peace and well-being for our earth and humanity, in the present and for generations to come. At its core, lie 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise a pressing call to action for every nation, whether developed or developing, to engage in a global partnership. These goals underpin that eradicating poverty and addressing other forms of deprivation must be pursued concurrently with initiatives that enhance healthcare and education, diminish inequality, and stimulate economic advancement. All of this should occur while simultaneously confronting climate change and striving to protect our oceans and forests.

As Patras Medicine iGEM 2023 team, through our project “Herophilus” we aim to dedicate our work in the manifestation of the Sustainable Development Goals #3, #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #12, #13 and #17.

Our project "Herophilus" aims to address highly aggressive pancreatic cancer by proposing a new and innovative therapeutic approach using CAR-NK cells, thereby increasing patients' meager five-year survival rate and improving the quality of their lives. Moreover, the technology of CAR-NK cells derived from iPSCs offers significant advantages over other immunotherapies by limiting side effects. It also provides an “off-the-shelf” product, allowing easier and quicker availability for immediate administration to patients. In the context of cell therapy, it represents a product manufactured in advance that can be used without customization or modification for each individual. Hence, patients will have a more accessible and cost-effective treatment option and will not need to delay receiving therapy. In this manner, we ensure healthy living conditions and promote well-being across all age groups. Additionally, life expectancy can increase, through the therapy we propose, so that such difficult health conditions can begin to be eliminated, thereby reducing the global mortality rate. Moreover, by understanding the established link between cancer and its effect on mental health, our therapy also significantly contributes to eliminating side effects and thus, alleviating the mental health burden of patients. Furthermore, our team plays a significant role in the prevention and management of national and global health risks, since through our project we emphasize the causes of such diseases and highlight the detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the premature onset of cancer.

Our project's objective is to disseminate valuable insight in regards to synthetic biology and facilitate communicating scientific information, granting access to education and knowledge enrichment for more and more people. In pursuit of this goal, our team has created comic books in an illustrated version and a version in Braille, to introduce the concept of cancer and the functions of the pancreas to young readers, including those with visual impairments. Furthermore, we actively engaged in children's festivals, organizing interactive board games and card games, to help younger students recognize various parts of the body and also learn about the concept of DNA and hydrogen bonds. Moreover, we visited numerous schools and conducted experiments to enhance science education. Simultaneously, through our seminars and conferences, we engaged with individuals from all levels of education and professional background, including undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students. Through these multifaceted activities, we have strived to ensure comprehensive and equal quality of education, increase access to knowledge and reduce outcomes disparities, promoting meaningful and compelling learning experiences.

The persistent global gender disparities and discrimination demand our attention and concerted efforts. As Patras Medicine iGEM 2023, we firmly acknowledge that gender inequality violates human rights and poses obstacles to progress in various aspects. Therefore, through our social media, we aim to achieve the empowerment of all women and girls, ensuring that equal rights and opportunities are provided to individuals, irrespective of gender. On our social media platforms, we feature posts dedicated to celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, specifically focusing on synthetic biology and medicine. These highlight the significant contributions made by women in advancing our society and underscore their remarkable talent and dedication. We also address the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) gap, which reflects the disproportionately low representation of women in the scientific fields. Our social media campaign emphasizes that women have the potential to assume leadership roles and provide valuable support to STEM disciplines. Moreover, we actively promote women's participation in decision-making processes at all levels within our team and recognize that fostering greater diversity in decision-making leads to more inclusive and effective policies and outcomes.

In adherence to the principles of sustainable development, we have directed our efforts towards achieving Goal 8, which is centered on the promotion of decent work and economic growth. In pursuing this objective, our project places a significant emphasis on contributing to our country’s economic advancement. Our endeavor will play a pivotal role in supporting research development within Greece and facilitating the production of therapies of high global demand. Within this framework, we actively promote scientific progress and foster innovation as an essential mission of our project. Our ultimate goal is to address a critical therapeutic gap through developing an innovative product, positioning ourselves as pioneers in this field within our country. Our strategy is focused on sectors characterized by high-added value and work-intensive processes, which will serve as catalysts for attracting investments in our country. With a vision to establish our spin-off company in the healthcare industry, we aspire to create new employment opportunities. Our commitment to this cause extends to offering individuals from diverse backgrounds, regardless of gender, age and nationality, the chance to upgrade their financial state. We envision a work environment that is marked by ensuring labor rights and promoting secure and healthy working conditions for all employees. Consequently, our approach will foster investor confidence and contribute significantly to our country's sustainable growth.

In Greece, where there is a significant deficiency in suitable infrastructure and research equipment, the implementation of Goal 9 is of paramount importance. Through our project, which constitutes a research endeavor aimed at finding a treatment for pancreatic cancer, we emphasize the imperative need for funding infrastructure to ensure the responsible undertaking the requisite experiments, ultimately leading to valuable findings. By focusing on a novel and innovative therapeutic approach for pancreatic cancer, we intend to stimulate creative thinking and contribute to inspire and empower similar initiatives. Enhancing scientific research and encouraging innovation can also strengthen the country's Gross Domestic Product. As a society, we should understand the vast dimension of this and focus on upgrading technological facilities within the industrial sector fostering the development of high-quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. In this manner, industries can be mobilized and transformed into becoming more sustainable, promoting efficient resource utilization and adopting cleaner and environmentally responsible technologies and practices.

Inequalities rooted in income, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion and access to opportunities persist globally. This persistence of inequality poses a threat to sustainable social and economic progress, undermines efforts to alleviate poverty and negatively affects individuals' sense of fulfillment and self-esteem. Therefore, realizing sustainable development and laying the foundation for a more equal world for everyone is crucial. So, we tried to achieve this goal through campaigns in our social media, such as our campaign for the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21st) in which we talked about people of color in STEM, our campaign for the National Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia (May 17th) in which we talked about LGBTQ+ People in STEM and our campaign for the International Women’s Day (March 8th) and for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11/ 02), through which we aimed to pay tribute to pioneer women in Synthetic Biology & Medicine.

Environmental-friendly technologies and practices are essential in mitigating the environmental impact of consumption, including reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources and minimizing pollution. Serving this purpose, "Herophilus" places great emphasis on responsible consumption and production patterns to reduce its environmental footprint. To achieve this, the company has adopted off-the-shelf production methods. This approach involves a one-time manufacturing process for mass batches, eliminating the need for repetitive procedures to personalize therapy to each patient. Moreover, our product is designed with enhanced durability, resulting in a longer lifespan of the CAR-NK \ cells, for up to 10 years with cryogenic storage and a decreased necessity for frequent replacements, ultimately reducing waste. Furthermore, Herophilus is dedicated to embracing methods aligned with the principles of the circular economy such as recycling, reusing and reducing the usage of resources and materials. We also aim to lessen excess packaging wherever possible, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable future.

Climate change is one of our today's most pressing and significant global challenges, posing severe threats to ecosystems, economy, society and human well-being. Addressing climate change is paramount for the long-term sustainability of our planet and the welfare of both current and future generations. With these considerations in mind, our company, Herophilus, is committed to incorporating environmental responsibility into our business practices. In establishing Herophilus, we have been mindful of the environmental impact of our operations. In order to avoid leukapheresis to produce CAR-NK cells, which often entail significant energy consumption and resource depletion, we have chosen to utilize CAR-NK cells derived from iPSCs. This innovative approach enables us to reduce electricity consumption, lessen our environmental footprint and promote responsible resource management. Furthermore, while targeting pancreatic cancer, our therapy alleviates this disease’s burden on healthcare systems. By effectively providing therapy for this disease in just 2-3 doses, we reduce the need for frequent hospital visits and clinics. Consequently, this also reduces greenhouse gas emissions stemming from vehicle transportation of patients, thus, mitigating atmospheric pollution. It is worth noting that our therapy produces minimal to no toxic waste, resulting in a lesser overall impact on our planet. This commitment to sustainability underscores our dedication to addressing climate change and its associated challenges.

Throughout all stages of the 'Herophilus' project, our team consulted experts, researchers, and specialists from other countries, regarding the technological knowledge of CAR-NK technology and the laboratory steps and procedures required to complete the project. Simultaneously, we engaged in collaborations with iGEM teams from other countries working on therapeutic projects related to cancer, such as iGEM Bits Goa from India, iGEM Toulouse from France, and iGEM McGill from Canada to discuss our different perspectives and approaches through Synthetic Biology, and how we could mutually assist each other. We also established cooperation relationships to address our current health and global issue - pancreatic cancer. Through our efforts to combat a common global scourge, we realized that we can share expertise and new perspectives, create funding opportunities, and support such research programs in Greece, enhancing the Global Partnership.

“17 Sustainable Development Goals Quiz ” on Social Media

We created a quiz about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to examine how many of us understand the meaning of each goal and its value in society. Specifically, we took each of the 17 goals and allowed the audience to choose the correct definition of each goal to spread awareness and educate as many people as possible. This quiz was created to highlight the fields in which our world can be improved and identify solutions for them.


[1]. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development | Department of Economic and Social Affairs