After a weekend of presentations by nearly 120 competing teams of student researchers from around the world, Team Slovenia from the University of Ljubljana took home the 2010 BioBrick Grand Prize Trophy at the 2010 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition Jamboree.
The team’s goal was to bring assembly-line efficiency to cellular processes. To do this, the students engineered scaffolds for biosynthetic pathways by binding the functional proteins in this pathway to a DNA strand. When applied to a violacein biosynthetic pathway, the engineered pathway produced a six-fold increase in final product compared with that made without the side products created by the natural pathway.
Teams were awarded bronze, silver, or gold medals based on a stringent judging criteria and had the opportunity to win additional special prizes, area prizes, and software prizes. Overall, 103 teams took home a medal and 20 teams received one or more of the 29 additional prizes.
“This is definitely the Olympics of synthetic biology,” said Christie Howard, one of the mentors of the University of Nevada iGEM team, which took home a silver medal for engineering plant cells to act as remote sensors of environmental stress.
The first runner-up for the grand prize was the Peking University Team, who developed bioreporters and bioabsorbents for the clean-up of heavy-metal contaminated waters. The second runner-up was the team from Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences at the University of Bristol, who engineered Escherichia coli biosensors for soil nutrients that allow farmers to map the nutrient composition of their fields and efficiently use their fertilizer.
The Swiss-ETZH team won the Best Information Processing Award and a gold medal for their “E-Lemming” project, in which they created the smallest remote-controlled robot on earth by hijacking the chemotaxis mechanisms of an E. coli bacterium.
“The people here seem to be really interested in our project; the poster was completely overcrowded and I talked to dozens of people over hours without any break,” said Moritz Lang, a member of the Swiss-ETZH team. “It was more like meeting each other, talking about science and just having a good time, and less like a real competition.”
The Nevada team has a similar experience, according to Howard. “Our students learned an astonishing amount about synthetic biology and made many friends from all over the world, and our team plans on collaborating with other teams in the future. After we catch up on our sleep.”
Last month, BioTechniques interviewed the Swiss-ETZH and Nevada teams as they entered the final round of preparations.