Our Story

From its very inception, Edinburgh iGEM 2015 has been steeped in controversy. What makes our team truly unique, however, is the way in which we have not shied away from its presence, but rather embodied it as the cornerstone of the work we strive to build.


With controversy comes important questions. Some have asked whether our test would implicitly condone drug use, and this has allowed for a fascinating exploration into the moral implications of harm reduction. Consequently, we have become facilitators of a debate regarding the nature of responsible drug policy, which we believe is paramount to a city so stricken by drug use as the one we have come to know, love, and call home.

Internally, this debate is at once restraining and liberating: it constantly forces us to stop and reevaluate what should be the next step forward, as we attempt to balance seemingly disparate beliefs within our own group. Yet, by doing so, we come to learn so much about ourselves, as we uncover ingrained prejudices we never knew existed.

There are endless ways in which our narrative could unfold. Indeed, with each new chapter there will be an audience who stands and applauds with approval, and one which remains seated and scorns with discontent. Who will belong to which audience is difficult to say; however, one thing is certain: we are the authors, and it is our story to tell.

Interactive Timeline

  • From The White Board To The Wet Lab

    In order to determine the focus of iGEM 2015, we participated in a week long sandpit where we brainstormed ideas.

  • A Chat With Policy Experts

    We sat down with Susan Deacon, former Scottish MSP and member of the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy, and Doctorial Researcher Anna Ross for interviews regarding the current climate of UK drug policy. See how their input changed our project.

  • Synenergene Collaboration

    We were fortunate enough to be selected as one of eight teams worldwide for a grant and collaboration with the EU project Synenergene. See how they helped us build a theoretical framework for the real-world implimentation of our biosensor.

  • The Morality of our Biosensor

    Some object to our biosensor on a more abstract level, arguing that it is morally reprehensible because it implicity condones drug use. We talked to Dr David Levy, lecturer of ethics, to see how much weight this objection carries.

  • Understanding Our End Users

    We went to Serenity Cafe, which hires recovered and recovering heroin addicts. Serenity's owner, Yanni Yannoulis, shared his reservations about the usefulness of our biosensor for heroin addicts. See how we adapted our device in response to his advice.

  • Understanding Our End Users pt2

    In order to determine the usefulness of our device for MDMA users, we chatted to Kings College London's Dr Adam Winstock, author of the world's largest drug survey, 'Global Drug Survey (2015)'. See how his invaluable insight lead to software being integrated with our biosensor.

  • Biohack: Encouraging Public Innovation

    We held a public biohack where participants learned about SynBio, whilst proposing innovative ways technology could be used to increase the functionality of our biosensor. See which ideas stood out the most, and how we incorporated them into our project.

  • Facilitating An Open Discussion

    We hosted a public panel discussion on issues relating to drug use, inviting a wide array of speakers, including current Scottish MSPs, social and healthcare workers, university faculty and more. See how they respond to challenging questions posed by the audience.

  • Implementing Our Final Product

    We did the research, talked to the experts and adapted our biosensor. Now that the project was coming to an end, we put our final prototype to the ultimate test by visiting a drug consumption room in Amsterdam and asking staff and users whether it was any good. Click here to see what they said.

  • Concluding Thoughts

    See how our project has shaped the thoughts and opinions of own team.