The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is often where students are first exposed to synthetic biology concepts. Teams from around the world conduct innovative synthetic biology research over the course of a summer, as well as public outreach to develop effective scientific communication skills. Hundreds of Canadian students have competed, gaining invaluable experience in designing a synthetic biology research project from scratch.
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University of Lethbridge
The University of Lethbridge has competed in iGEM since 2007 achieving 9 gold medals, placing first for North America in 2013 and in the top 16 globally in 2011. Recently, their 2017 team of over 20 members was nominated for Best Integrated Human Practices, Best Education and Public Engagement, Best Software, and a Security Commendation. Over the years they have tackled a diverse group of challenges from cleaning up local tailing ponds, to finding more effective pesticides, and to the rehabilitation of stroke patients. They are eagerly awaiting the next iGEM season and seeing all the innovative projects at the Giant Jamboree. If you are interested in collaborating with them or have questions about any of their projects please contact them!
They've worked closely with many researchers, including: Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, Dr. Cesar Rodriguez, Florida State University, Dr. Trushar Patel, Dr. Brian Dempsey, Dr. Marc Roussel, and Dr. A. William Smith
Previous projects include: Nanoresponder (2016); RNAiCare (2015); Brainiacs (2014); FrameChanger (2013); Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (2012); Tailings Pond Cleanup (2011); Tailings Pond Cleanup (2010); Biobattery (2009); "Bacuum" Cleaner (2008); Bioprospecting (2007)
Lethbridge High School Team
The Lethbridge High School iGEM Team started competing in 2012, the year after the high school track was created. The team has mainly comprised of students from schools in the Lethbridge area in grades 10 to 12. The teams have been successful winning two bronze medals (2015, 2016), a silver medal (2017), Best Poster (2012), Best Wiki (2013), Best New BioBrick Part - Natural (2013), and the Grand Prize Green Brick Trophy (2013).The 2017 iGEM project focused on producing biological pigments in E. coli to make more eco-friendly ink-based products. The students published a design article in the online journal BioTreks, winning awards for Best Education and Best Visual Communication. The students also worked on developing a business plan for the marketability of bacterially produced pigments.
They've worked closely with Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden and Dr. Brian Dempsey
Previous projects include: Coagu.coli (2016); Biofilms and Beeyond (2015); Anti Antibiotics (2014); Oxytastic (2013); Glucose Detection for Diabetes Treatment (2012); Ligase-Independent Cloning (2008)
Founded in 2012, McMaster University's iGEM team now has over 20 students participating. Their latest project tackled the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance in hypervirulent bacterial strains. They designed a fast and user-friendly detection assay using fluorogenic DNAzymes to detect specific strains.
"As synthetic biology brings us increasing innovations, educating future scientists and researchers in the technologies at their disposal becomes increasingly important. It is in response to such a need that our iGEM McMaster (mGEM) team has grown in Hamilton, Ontario. At our core, we strive to educate the public and conduct research on the most pertinent issues of our times and in our communities. With mentorship and training as main focuses of our team, we strongly believe in supporting our students in their education of synthetic biology and in their growth as both learners and leaders." - McMaster iGEM Team
Previous projects include: Tumour-Seeking Bacteria (2016); Automating Protein Production Using Multichromatic Light (2015)
The QGEM Team utilized nature as their inspiration for building a safer and cheaper method of oil spill cleanup. In 2017 they aimed to design and engineer a bacterial biofilm-based material that functions to bind ice and recruit oil-degrading native marine bacteria. This was done by engineering a protein naturally expressed in bacterial biofilm, to append an ice-binding protein and a bacterial adhesin domain. The end-product would be a dynamic, bifunctional biomaterial that could be deployed into the arctic during oil spills as a bioremediation factory, with limited disturbance to the surrounding ecosystem. They've worked closely Dr. John Allingham.
Previous projects include: nonribosomal peptide synthetases, scaffolding ice-binding proteins, and inteins.
University of toronto
Over 20 students from across departments at the University of Toronto currently participate on the team. Their recent project aimed to develop a genetic switch controlled by light using a novel fusion protein LacILOV, to control the powerful CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique. They've worked closely with Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan.
Previous projects include: Gold Biosensing (2016); Consortia Flux (2015); Plasmid Loss Genetic Safeguard for the Biocontainment of Synthetic Organisms (2014); Modulating Biofilm Response (2013); Encapsulator (2009); E. coli Neural Network (2007)
University of waterloo
With Waterloo's strong background in engineering and science, iGEM is a natural fit. Over 20 students are contributing towars their 2017 project to demonstrate the utility of functional amyloids in the manipulation of protein-protein interactions. Their proof-of-concept system uses bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) and Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET).
Previous projects include: Using stop codon read-through and CRISPR to explore S. cerevisiae prion mechanisms (2016); Re-engineering CRISPR-Cas9 with functional applications in eukaryotic systems (2015); Delivery of an Antibiotic Resistance Gene Silencing Mechanism to a MRSA Population using Bacterial Conjugation (2014); Controlled Modification and intercellular transmission of a DNA message (2013); In vivo protein fusion assembly using self excising ribozymes (2012); The staphiscope (2010)