Simulating Nutrient Preferences to Inform Co-culture Design for Probiotic Manufacturing;The Effect of Racial Discrimination on the Underrepresentation of Minority Groups in Clinical Trials

Lin, Lily, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Medlock, Gregory, MD-PEDT Gastroenterology, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

After a drug is approved by the FDA, there are still many more obstacles to overcome before it can be administered to patients, which includes the development of a process that allows drugs to be manufactured at a larger scale. Next generation probiotics, also sometimes referred to as live biotherapeutics, are probiotics that act in a pharmaceutical capacity by shifting the gut microbiome to address specific needs. To bring these probiotics to market, a method for improving the growth of gut microbes in co-culture is needed to increase scalability and decrease costs during the manufacturing process. The Capstone project aims to use optimization techniques to simulate nutrient preferences using genome scale metabolic network models (GENRES) from gut microbes. Simulating nutrient preferences for any gut microbe will help determine if there will be competition among various gut microbial strains for nutrients or if there will be a cooperative process of producing and consuming different nutrients. These results will help find combinations of species that are best suited for co-culturing. This will serve to lower costs in manufacturing by reducing nutrients required per batch and improve scalability by utilizing a more robust combination of strains to help make live biotherapeutic strategies more accessible.
In order to make sure that results from clinical trials accurately reflect the effectiveness of a drug in patients, it is important that the patient sample is representative of the actual patient population. Currently, clinical trials have little to no representation from minority groups despite the fact that those groups may comprise a significant population of patients who could potentially benefit from the drug. The following STS project focuses on the issue of underrepresentation of African Americans in clinical trials and the effect of racial discrimination on this issue. The social construction of technology framework is used to analyze how racial discrimination in various historical case studies led to the mistrust of the medical research institution and how it has shaped current perceptions on clinical trial participation among African Americans. In addition, current barriers that have been shown to decrease the enrollment and participation of African Americans in clinical trials are identified and organized into different systematic levels. Actor network theory is used to explain how these barriers and actors influence each other across these different systematic levels.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
SCOT, ANT, Clinical Trials, Racial Discrimination, Metabolic Modeling, Probiotic Manufacturing, Microbiota, Nutrient preferences

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gregory Medlock
STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: Caroline Bereuter, Samantha Clayton

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