The Incubation Times – November 16, 2013

The iGEM season is over!

This year’s edition of the iGEM competition featured the creation of two separate categories for undergrads and overgrads.

The team from Heidelberg University (in the undergrad category) and the team from Paris Bettencourt (overgrad category) won the Grand Prize in their respective categories.

The project of team Heidelberg focused on Non-Ribosomal Peptides (NRP) and their synthetases (NRPS). The team demonstrated the modularity of these enzymes and how this modularity allows for the synthesis of custom NRPs. The team also developed a pigment tag and two standards for high-throughput experiments with NRPS. Remarkably, they also took the first steps into an eventual industrial application of the heterologous expression in an E. coli chassis of Delfibactin, a gold-precipitating NRP from Delftia acidovorans. Finally, they also made a software tool to design NRPS.

Team Paris Bettencourt went for a clinical application. They worked on four different ways to tackle Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the causative agent of tuberculosis) with Synthetic Biology.

The first approach they explored aimed to build a sensor for antibiotic-resistant M. tuberculosis strains using a CRIPSR/Cas cassette.

In the second one, an E. coli strain that is able to survive in minimal media using the sulfite reduction pathway from mycobacteria was developed. The team  identified drug target sites and a potential anti-tuberculosis activity of Pyridoxine (vitamin B6).

In the third approach, an E. coli strain expressing Trehalose Dimycolate Hydrolase (TDH) and capable of entering into the cytosol of macrophages (because it also expresses Listeriolysin O) was used in macrophage co-infections together with M. smegmatis. The presence of the engineered E. coli strain expressing TDH impaired the growth of the mycobacteria.

In the fourth approach, the team was able to turn antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli into antibiotic-sensitive ones using phages with small RNAs that targeting antibiotic-resistance genes.

Team Paris Bettencourt did an interesting revision on the gender composition of past iGEM teams and found out that winning teams have significantly more women and tend to be more gender balanced.

Finally, I can’t leave unsaid that the wiki of team Paris Bettencourt is awesome! Their graphic design skills are truly remarkable, as one can notice in their whole wiki and also in this infographic they made.

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As you may have already noticed…

we just moved to WordPress and joined efforts with the Mexican National Network of Synthetic Biology, a group of students and professors from different institutes in Mexico. This marks the beginning of a whole new phase for us and there are many things envisioned to continue bringing the news and communicating the most recent advances in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology in general to our followers in Mexico and the world.

We have to fix some links here and there in the new blog, so the old one will remain on.

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This week…

we’ll be in the GENOBIOTEC’13 Biotechnology Symposium and we’re planning to start with the update of our  database of the projects in iGEM.

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We’re also planning to start writing posts aimed for the general public in a new section of the blog, we have new authors on board, we’re doing more interviews, having guest posts and well… we’re very excited about what’s to come!

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