Biomakespace Forum

Small World Initiative - crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery


(Jenny Molloy) #1

Interesting initiative that we might want to look at when designing training. From their website:

The Small World Initiative (SWI) strives to combine technology, science, and innovation to make meaningful and measurable improvements in the global education and healthcare landscape.

The mission of the program is twofold.
First, it seeks to encourage students to pursue careers in science through real-world applicable laboratory and field research in introductory courses.
Second, it aims to address a worldwide health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics – by tapping into the collective power of many student researchers concurrently tackling the same challenge, living up to its motto “crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery.”

They do recommend Biosafety Level 2 though, I guess because you don’t know what you’re growing up from soil samples. Even if this isn’t for us, it’s a nice concept to think about for embedding ‘real world problems’ into training and they have some useful resources e.g. list of equipment one would need, sample syllabus and biosafety info.


(Dean Madden) #2

My ex-colleague John Schollar was involved in the UK version of this initiative – done in conjunction with the Microbiology Society (previously known as the Society for General Microbiology). The safety concern over growing unknown organisms from soil samples was overcome using a method where agar was poured in a layer over the plate once it had been inoculated. He also devised a method of applying this layer to the plate through a syringe without having to open the Petri dish (the school safety authorities in the UK were not keen on the plates being opened at all).


(Jenny Molloy) #3

Thanks Dean - really useful to know!
So maybe it would be a possibility once we’re set up and running if someone were interested to train and had the time. Do you know if this is documented anywhere or would one need to contact John? Setting up training isn’t imminent, but we’re collecting interesting ideas.


(Dean Madden) #4

I’m meeting John for lunch on Monday (12 December), so I’ll ask him. The method works very well indeed, but John ran up against school safety people who said ‘thou shalt never open a Petri dish inoculated with unknown organisms’. Hence the syringe method, which was quite unnecessary, in our opinions, because all you did was open the lid slightly and pour in some molten agar. I know John took lots of photos, but I’m not sure whether it’s possible to post photographs on this forum.


(Dean Madden) #5

Met John and almost forgot to ask him. He said that he thought that the protocols had been written originally for undergraduates in the USA, and required adaptation before they could be used by lesser mortals. Anyway, he’s going to eMail me details of his methods – both the one where you add a layer of agar over the plate and the one where you do this without opening the plate.