This year, RDFZ-CHINA is dedicated to developing an innovative acne patch for acne treatment. Our patch incorporates the functions of sterilizing Propionibacterium acnes, breaking down fatty acids, and repairing skin damage in two distinct treatment phases. To bridge the gap between the laboratory and the real world, we conducted interviews with a diverse range of professionals, including doctors, skincare bloggers, biomedical engineers, and our target audience, individuals with acne. Collecting and analyzing feedback from various segments of society, our engagement in human practices has supplied invaluable insights to refine our project, aligning it more closely with societal needs.

I. Product Idealation & Design

Some of our own teammates are suffering from acne. Their share of their own experiences at the meeting brought us to realize how much could the treatment of acne be improved and how broadly acne is able to link various profound societal topics. In addition, acne itself is a ubiquitous skin problem for numerous people. We reviewed a lot of literature, browsed social media, and reached out to doctors and patients, and all reputable experts and sources. And finally, based on all that, we came up with a few rudimentary proposals, including producing bactericidal anions and putting them in small patches.

1. Post Quesionary Online: Understand Facts of Acne in Reality

Clarifying three areas - Acne, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and Dental Ulcer - in which we might have a chance for improvement, we decided to identify from which our future product can bring out the most improvement. So we sent out a questionnaire online. The questions mainly consist of their experience of each of the three health problems, health and fitness habits, existing treatments, and their attitudes towards a new product for curing the problem. Through 298 valid answers, we discovered that acne can also cause mental issues apart from physical symptoms. As we found teenagers are more likely to get acne and might suffer appearance anxiety, we unanimously agreed to further develop our topic on ance. Therefore, we then identified the potential consumers of our product --- people suffering from acne, who are most likely to be teenagers. To better understand how our future product can better solve the problem for patients, we decided to hold deep conversations with teenagers who suffer from this.

2. Patient Interview: Decide The Aim Of Our Product

We reached out to acne patients who filled out the questionnaire above, most of them have constant acne starting from an early period of adolescence. According to their description, we gained ideas on how to specify our product's function and how to help them from a social aspect. First, a lot of people are not even aware of this problem and only take action when it becomes really severe, which leads us to promote the importance of skin care for all ranges of people, especially for children before their adolescence. Second, people cannot persistently take medicine or do facial care, which leads to one of our design concepts, that is, to the maximum, integrate all the functions in one automatic system, thus, reducing the effort needed to cure acne. Third, most of them will feel uncomfortable with their appearance when having acne, regardless of the social environment, which inspired us to promote the idea of anti-body shame to young people.

3. Interview Dermatologist Ms.Wei Aihua: The Potential of New Acne-treating Method Development

We sought to understand how our project would fit into the current framework of acne treating medicine industry, which led to us interviewing Ms.Aihua Wei, the Chief physician, professor, and doctoral supervisor at the Department of Dermatology in Beijing Tongren Hospital, Capital Medical University.

Dr. Wei recommended consulting dermatologists specializing in acne treatment at reputable hospitals and emphasized personalized treatment plans following standardized guidelines. She advocated for a combination of medication and non-pharmacological treatments while acknowledging the strong competition in the acne treatment market. Further, Dr. Wei noted ongoing research and developments in acne treatments and mentioned that launching a new product in this field requires significant resources. She also highlighted existing products like topical salicylic acid patches and oral isotretinoin and recognized substantial investment in acne treatment due to societal emphasis on appearance and a large population with acne.

In conclusion, the interview with Dr. Wei Aihua holds significant importance as it provides us valuable insights into personalized acne treatment and the competitive landscape of the skin care industry, from which we gain a clear thought of the high competitive pressure among other products while determining that our product would have its own uniquity.

4. Collaboration with Squirrel-Beijing-1

During inter-team discussions, we discovered that Squirrel-Beijing-1's project had resulted in the production of bacterial cellulose—a material possessing all the necessary characteristics for our patches, such as biocompatibility, strong water retention, and low toxicity. Recognizing the potential synergy, they generously provided us with a sample of their completed bacterial cellulose, enabling us to study and incorporate it into our patches.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to their team for both inspiring and generously providing us with a sample of bacterial cellulose. It was through our collaboration and discussions with their team that we realized the potential of using bacterial cellulose as the material for our patches, and we are excited to explore its applications further.

II. Project Modifications - Interviews
1) Advice From a Makeup Blogger —— Redesign the appearance of Our Product

For the design and appearance of our product, we initially sought invisible patches, which help people to keep a more perfect facial appearance. However, after conducting a thorough analysis of our competitors' products, we wanted our product to stand out. Therefore, we consulted with a highly influential beauty blogger on Social Media who suggested that acne could be seen as a unique feature, like a birthmark. It is not something that should always be concealed. She points out that making these unique features, such as acne and birthmarks, into a piece of artwork sometimes may help "patients" themselves and the public better accept themselves.

After taking the advice from the Blogger, we considered the gathered feedback from patients who suffer from acne. Many feel humiliated and less confident because of acne while some say they embrace their new appearance. Our main goal is to not only help patients eliminate acne but also foster self-confidence in all aspects of their lives. We eagerly want individuals to realize how their pristine body is indeed glamorous and how we have overlooked how these features witnessed and companioned their growth in their life span. Inspired by these perspectives, we decided to change the appearance of our paster.

Ultimately, we chose a pink flower to represent our design. There are two themes for selecting this flower motif. Firstly, most acne patients are young individuals who are like blossoming flowers in our society. Secondly, flowers symbolize a vibrant and optimistic outlook, as they always strive to face the sun. It is our hope that every patient can gain confidence, embrace their acne, and radiate beauty just like a blooming flower.

2) Doctor Zhao Yingchi

In the interview, Mr.Zhao discussed his research focus, which centers on natural immunity, with a particular emphasis on skin-related studies, specifically within the realms of immunity and inflammation. In the process, he highlighted the primary applications of growth factors in acne treatment, which involve promoting cell growth, aiding wound healing, and regulating inflammation. Looking to the future, he considered our focus to be on advancing growth factor applications in acne treatment. This includes improving absorption rates, exploring modified delivery methods, enhancing cost-effectiveness, and ensuring product stability. The interview also touched on key project details, such as controlling bacterial replication on the patch, designing wound dressings for optimal growth factor passage, emphasizing unique product advantages, rigorous validation through lab tests and in vivo models, safety considerations, market research insights, and our comprehensive future plans.

3) Doctor Hao Yonghong from Dept.Dermatology, Beijing 301 Hospital

Dr. Haoyong from Beijing 301 Hospital shared insights regarding our acne treatment project. He praised our innovative transdermal drug delivery method for mild to moderate acne but acknowledged its limitations in severe cases. Dr. Haoyong stressed the importance of combining oral and topical treatments for comprehensive care. He favored antibiotics and hepatoprotective agents in his treatment approach and emphasized the significance of patient compliance. Regarding the pharmaceutical industry, he believed that effective treatments already exist, with imported drugs often preferred. Overall, he supported our project's innovation while highlighting its role as a complementary treatment option in the broader landscape of acne management.

4) Interview with Mr. He Jian: Senior Engineer Huaren Sanjiu Pharmaceutical, Ltd.

In our discussion with Mr.He Jian, a senior engineer at Huaren Sanjiu Pharmaceutical, several critical insights emerged. He began by outlining the existing landscape of acne treatments, which primarily include retinoids, anti-lipid agents, and antibiotics, while also shedding light on their respective advantages and drawbacks. Emphasizing the importance of scientific validation, he stressed the need for our proposed treatment approach to ensure effective skin penetration. Mr.He also offered valuable insights into the utilization of transdermal patches, recognizing their advantages and limitations. Additionally, he highlighted the significant investments in the acne medication industry, primarily driven by aesthetics and the enhancement of quality of life. Furthermore, he noted the widespread acceptance of acne treatments, yet underscored the growing demand, particularly in the U.S., for quicker-acting solutions. Finally, he pointed out the emergence of trends focusing on complex formulations that address all factors contributing to acne development, even though such innovations have not yet reached the market.

These insights collectively shape our project by providing a comprehensive understanding of the current acne treatment landscape, the imperative for innovation, and the potential areas where our project can deliver substantial impact.

5) Interview with 2023 LINKS_China Member Chloe —— How to Gain Clear Recognition of Acnedote's Position & Suggestions

In our quest to gather ideas and insights from accomplished teams, we are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to connect with Chloe, a dedicated member of LINKS_China, one of the Top 10 iGEM teams in 2021. Their willingness to engage with us and share their expertise has been invaluable. Following our project discussions, the advice she offered regarding our projects' potential in the realm of sustainable development and human practice has not only enriched our understanding but also instilled great confidence in our following path.

III. Stakeholder

To better tailor our project to effectively address real-world problems, and ensure its relevance and impact, our team interviewed stakeholders from different fields. These interviews provide invaluable insights into the unique needs, concerns, and priorities of the individuals or groups who might be impacted by our project. Also, their understanding paved the way for enabling us to gather constructive feedback, which can further refine our project and enhance its overall success.

1. Beauty Salon

To gain a comprehensive understanding of acne treatment costs and effects in the market to better find our product's place in it, we interviewed a worker at BAZAAR, a beauty salon, offering facial cleaning and acne removal services. She revealed that acne treatments typically last around three months and are the most expensive services in salons, with each session costing approximately 680-1000 RMB (about $93.53). Individuals with closed-type acne may seek treatment sporadically as needed, while those with pustule-type acne require a full treatment course. Sales representatives often recommend that regular individuals undergo acne removal twice a month. Our interview also highlighted that late-night sleeping, an unhealthy diet, and genetic factors constitute the primary causes of acne formation. This interview provided valuable insights into market dynamics, emphasizing the significance of consistent treatment for different acne types, and offered a health assistant's perspective on the factors contributing to acne formation.

2. Interview Dermatologist Mr. Cheng and Mr.Alan, the Director of A Skincare Brand

At the planning stage of our project, we reached a consensus that people do not automatically form the standard of beauty. Someone deliberately shaped the public’s point of view, making everyone frantically pursue smooth and flawless skin. This could explain why people always feel anxious about their faces and endlessly search for skincare products that could cure the acne on their faces. After going through advertising pages of cosmetic products online, we noticed a strong influence on social media.

To better understand this operation mechanism of successful products, we contacted Mr. Cheng, the chief of dermatology of Chuiyangliu Hospital affiliated with Tsinghua University, and Mr. Alan, the training director of BRODA, in order to investigate deeper. Through the interview, we learned how the manufacturer tends to portray the image of a product therefore to gain preferences in a more diversified and immense population. Therapeutic effects are the main factor determining popularity. Besides, convenience and prices also affect consumers' preferences. It is important to make consumers use it in a pellucid way and be able to afford the product. As we design targeted treatment methods for different stages and produce them at a low cost, we are now more confident in marketing our product to suit everyone’s demand and raise public awareness of our innovative acne treatment.

3. Competitive Analysis

To identify market gaps and gain insights into our competitors' successes and mistakes, we conducted a competitive analysis, from which we gained a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors and strategically highlighted our own strengths. Currently, competitive products in the market can be categorized into four groups: Fuqing, Yifu, Defilin, and Beifuxin. Overall, this analysis helps us recognize unmet customer needs and strategize how to differentiate our product effectively.

IV. Project Communication
1. Public Engagement

These activities played a pivotal role in enhancing consumer acceptance of our products by providing accessible information about synthetic biology, its applications, and its safety. By effectively disseminating knowledge and fostering understanding, we successfully paved the way for increased project publicity and garnered greater interest in embracing new concepts among people.

(1) CCiC

In July, our team took part in the CCiC (Conference of China iGEMer Community), a gathering exclusively catering to iGEM teams in China. Over the four-day course, we had the privilege to showcase our project and exchange valuable insights into project design, methodologies, and human practice with fellow teams.

During this event, we had the esteemed opportunity to engage with experts from relevant sectors, an honor that enriched our experience significantly. The communication and our interactions with these experts added depth to our endeavors at that time and inspired us to brainstorm more things we could do in human practice in order to promote our product, the field of synthetic biology, and the idea of being self-confident.

(2) Youth Education——Bio-camp for 10th Graders

One foundation for helping people understand our project is to grasp the basics of biology, especially synthetic biology. We are eager to help teenagers understand one way they can treat their acne, which they may be experiencing currently or in the near future. Therefore, over the summer break, we collaborated with our school's biology club to organize a bio-camp for 10th-grade students as part of our summer school program. We provided instruction on laboratory safety, synthetic biology, and its applications. Recognizing that many bio-camp attendees already had a foundational understanding of biology, we also introduced them to concepts from AP biology, igniting their enthusiasm for the subject.

(3) Biosafety Lecture: Cooperation with iGEM_BIT and BNDS-China

To strengthen our biosafety commitment, we partnered with BIT (Beijing Institute of Technology) University and BNDS-China for a lecture targeted at middle school students passionate about synthetic biology and safety. Our audience primarily comprised like-minded middle school students from our school, as well as students ranging from grade 3 to grade 12, along with some teachers. We introduced the field, shared our IGEM experiences, and explored various biosafety aspects, including safe experiments and product safety. This lecture aimed to instill safety awareness in younger generations. Both teams presented projects, discussed safety strategies, and gained insights. We used these insights to improve our acne patch's safety. Afterward, we conducted interviews to enhance safety standards for our Acnedote product, ensuring a secure user experience.

(4) Short Comics: Self-love philosophy

We took a creative approach to promote our acne patch product by crafting a meaningful four-square comic. Our comic not only highlighted the effectiveness of our product but also conveyed a powerful message about self-love and anti-appearance shame. By addressing the topic of women's self-love and beauty standards, particularly during the periods, when acne might be more prevalent, we aimed to empower and support individuals in embracing their natural beauty. The cute but thought-provoking comic was shared on two influential platforms: "Little Red Book" in China and Instagram, reaching a wide and diverse audience. Through this visual storytelling, we hoped to inspire a positive shift in attitudes towards self-image and encourage greater self-confidence, ultimately promoting our acne patch as a tool to enhance one's journey towards self-love and equality between all human beings.

(5)Lecture —— “Women in STEM”

To disseminate our product and slogan among girls and women, we held a lecture, cooperating with BS-UnitedChina, Shanghai-Medx, AIS-China, Dur China, and ZJFH-Nanjing, addressing the "Women In STEM" module. A primary objective of the lecture is to introduce our projects to a wider audience. However, even more significantly, we hold the belief that fewer women will experience mental distress due to their perceived physical imperfections, and we aim to boost their self-confidence unconditionally. We encourage them to be more receptive to compliments and less affected by negative comments from their surroundings. Additionally, we advise them to be less preoccupied with feedback from strangers. Together with four other iGEM teams, we introduced outstanding women scientists and researchers throughout the history to more than 100 people, wanting to encorage women and all kinds people that might not used to have a chance to get in touch in STEM field to to pursue their dreams and to never give up.

(6) Setting Up Stalls & Selling Our Creative Product

To reach a wider audience, during the summer vacation, we designed custom posters, handbooks, and keychains, selling them by the roadside. The posters and handbooks introduced the fundamental concepts and applications of synthetic biology, while the keychains featured our logo in the shape of our logo, promoting a positive attitude towards acne and imperfections. We set up stalls in our neighborhood and a nearby park, attracting many interested individuals. They were keen to learn about our product and share it with friends and family dealing with acne.

2. Supplementary Health Care Instruction
(1) Healthy Diet Recipe

The process of designing and implementing a healthy diet recipe for treating acne began with thorough research into the relationship between diet and acne. We carefully crafted a menu that prioritizes nutrition and skin health, from which we received highly favorable reviews from the people around us.

This initiative serves individuals seeking an effective acne treatment and raises health awareness within society. Promoting a diet supporting clear skin contributes to a broader understanding of the intimate connection between nutrition and overall health. Encouraging people to make informed dietary choices benefits their skin and enhances their overall well-being. Ultimately, this endeavor aims to empower individuals to take control of their health and foster a healthier, more informed society.

(2) Collaboration with the Sports Club

Date: September 11, 2023

Participants: President of the Sports Club, Si-Lin

We conducted an in-depth interview with Si-Lin, the president of our school's figure skating club, to understand their training routines and dietary habits and how they impact overall well-being and skin health. We also shared our scientific research findings with club members and engaged in discussions about the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

This collaboration not only enhances our knowledge dissemination efforts but also provides insights into the needs of young individuals regarding healthy living and exercise. We hope to extend our reach within the community and establish partnerships with more organizations to collectively promote a scientifically supported, healthy lifestyle.