UOFG UNDERGRAD IGEM TEAM WINS AWARD
Issued: Sun, 17 Sep 2017 10:00:00 BST
This weekend, more than six thousand university and high school students from around the world competed in Boston at the iGEM 2017 Giant Jamboree, writes Dr Julien Reboud, Lecturer in Engineering.
This is the world's premier synthetic biology competition, showcasing innovative and responsible biologically-engineered solutions to real-world challenges.
The Glasgow iGEM undergraduate team, assembled seven molecular biologists, two biomedical engineering students, and one student from social science. They worked for 12 weeks over the summer to deliver a synthetic biology project, which they presented to more than 300 other iGEM teams, and to the judges, who awarded their project the best project prize in the category ‘food and nutrition’.
The Glasgow project was also shortlisted for best measurement, best wiki, and best applied design and Best Part Collection.
The Glasgow project, ‘CampyLOCATOR’, was aimed at developing a genetically engineered biosensor to detect the presence of the bacteria Campylobacter, one of the most prevalent causes of food poisoning in the UK. The team has used technologies such as microfluidics and rapid prototyping to produce a biosensor that uses modified non-pathogenic E. coli bacteria to give a visual indication of the presence of Campylobacter.
Campylobacter causes more cases of food poisoning in the UK than E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella put together. It can be spread easily, often from raw or undercooked chicken, or from contamination due to washing raw chicken, and it only takes a few bacteria to cause illness.
The team also considered the social and ethical implications of their work. They engaged in activities to raise awareness on the nature of foodborne related diseases and how to prevent them. To build their activities, they established a dialogue with the Food Standards Agency, who estimated from research that most people don’t know about or don’t follow advice about handling and preparing raw chicken.
They delivered a 2-day workshop at the Glasgow Science Centre and participated to the Explorathon at the Riverside Museum, using their mascot Henrietta to interact with the public in a fun and engaging way. The project resulted in a policy brief, which the students plan to publicise widely to raise awareness of the potential impact of Brexit on food safety.
The team was supported by Dr Sean Colloms, Dr Julien Reboud, as well as PhD students James Provan, Jumai Abioye, and Katy Baker. For the first time in five years of participation, the Glasgow team was awarded the prize for best in their track - ‘food and nutrition’. This prize was one of only 11 prizes, for which 313 teams were competing, testament to the hard work and dedication they put into their work over the summer.
The project was supported by the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC, the IMechE, Society for Experimental Biology and the Microbiology Society.