Guest post from Urooj Kishor
Batches of competent cells, over 100 ligations of twenty one BioBricks into vectors, numerous experiments, and a handful of all-nighters all done over the past five months won the Waterloo team a Gold Medal and the Best Poster award at the iGEM Regional Jamboree this year.
iGEM is the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition for teams of undergraduate students throughout the world. iGEM is an educational platform for those who are interested in synthetic biology and the development of open community and collaboration while competing with other Universities. The North American regional jamboree took place at the University of Toronto over the October 5th weekend. At the same time, Asia, Latin American, and Europe had their respective jamborees in Hong Kong, Chile, and France.
Projects presented by university teams at the jamborees ranged from treating wastewater and transforming it into luminous energy to engineering E. coli to chelate iron in the duodenum of patients that have an overload of iron due to thalassemia. Many more exciting projects designed by teams from around the world can be found here: http://igem.org/Team_List
Waterloo’s Paul Reginato, accompanied by the rest of Waterloo iGEM team, designed a project to advance a DNA messaging system put forward by Stanford researchers last fall. The original system used M13 bacteriophage particles to carry a DNA message between populations of E. coli. The Waterloo team advanced the system by making DNA messages 1) controllable, 2) modifiable, and 3) retransmittable.
To control production of the M13 particle, they wanted to regulate expression of the M13 major coat protein. To modify the DNA message, iGEM Waterloo wanted to incorporate an invertible promoter switch on the message DNA. Such a switch can be flipped using a serine integrase and recombination directionality factor. Retransmission would be achieved through a combination of these approaches. Building the constructs to execute this elaborate project on the benchtop was not the only major aspect of the team’s victory. The Mathematical Modeling team was able to model propagation of a DNA message through a bacterial population and the behavior of an invertible promoter switch.
Waterloo iGEM has also been educating the Waterloo community about synthetic biology by holding events such as the Intent to Invent event in March and collaborating with VeloCity group on campus. VeloCity Science is specifically geared towards providing wet-lab space, skills and workshops for entrepreneurs that want to establish new innovative ideas in the real world in the field of Biotechnology and Life Sciences.
iGEM Waterloo had the chance to present their project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge over the weekend of November 1, 2013. The team also had a chance to engage in conversations with mathematicians, biologists, and entrepreneurs from around the world. Although the top three winning prizes were awarded to teams from Europe for their projects directly applicable to industry, iGEM Waterloo had a chance to learn and brainstorm ideas for a 2014 project! Stay tuned...