Against all odds, the annual iGEM* competition did happen this year and SBRC Nottingham were there to lead their team to GOLD!!
With our labs operating at a reduced capacity and travel impossible, the normal iGEM experience evolved into something different, but no less valuable. Recruiting, interviewing, implementing and even the "Boston" Jamboree, like the rest of our lives, became "virtual experiences".
From 31 applicants the iGEM supervisors, under the leadership of PIs Dr Andrew Dempster and Professor Nigel P Minton, assembled a highly talented, multidisciplinary team of eight, who made us all proud. Not only did the team keep up our tradition of winning a GOLD medal, but they also won nominations for Best Model and Best Therapeutic!
Team Nottingham modelled a biotherapeutic to be administered by mouth to help prevent and delay of neurogenerative diseases such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. Their clostridia-based product "Neurotone" was designed to increase the amount of D-β-hydroxybutyrate (DBHB) reaching neurons in the brain. Several studies have shown that DBHB has neuroprotective properties.
Their idea was to introduce DBHB production into Clostridium sporogenes then administer it to patients in tablet form. The bacteria then colonise the gut and produce DBHB which is absorbed across the gut into the blood and eventually reaches the brain to target and protect its neurons.
"With this project we aim to provide a new strategy to treat neurodegenerative diseases and open new doors to drug delivery techniques. Our project uses synthetic biology to engineer a bacterium which will protect against diseases which cause distress and illness to millions of people worldwide."
- Team Leader James Birch
The GOLD winning team was selected from Nottingham's finest! With fierce opposition for places, the final team of eight was truly multidisciplinary, with undergraduates from schools of Mathematics, Life Sciences and Biosciences.
In lock-down isolation from their make-shift studios in bedrooms around the UK they beavered hard and learned new skills. With the help of their supervising team they produced mathematical models and Minecraft worlds, wikis and videos, podcasts and posters. They interviewed world-leading experts and frontline health workers, collaborated with other teams, organized a sponsored charity event and became very, very good at running Teams meetings.
The team members, shown below are: James Birch (Leader), Saachi Bhalla (Deputy), Kieran Bird, Alistair Cadoo, Eugenia Vuong, Luke Wier, Luke Barks and Aly Sadowska.
(Deputy Team Leader)
(Communications and Fundraising Lead)
(Human Practices Lead)
(Recording Officer Lead)
The Team at the iGEM Virtual Event
iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that pioneered the synthetic biology industry and continues to advance the field through education, competition and industry collaboration. iGEM's annual student competition is the largest synthetic biology innovation program and a launchpad for the industry's most successful leaders and companies.
The competition empowers thousands of local people to solve local problems around the world by engineering biology for safe and responsible solutions. Each year, the competition brings together more than 6,000 participants from across the globe to explore and create unique applications of synthetic biology with the mission to bring positive contributions to their communities and society at large. Beyond the technology, participants are evaluated on teamwork, responsibility, entrepreneurship, sharing, safety and more.
- “Great presentation, poster, and wiki. Amazing HP, very apt for the current circumstance during the pandemic”
- “The team members excelled in integrated human practice and with strong product development mindsets”
- “You showed great background knowledge all around and a very very thorough and well documented dry-lab work in both design and modeling. This reflected in a very well designed and well planned project.”
Last But Not Least
Andrew Dempster & Nigel P Minton
Patrick Ingle, Raquel Rodrigues, Thomas Millat, Alex Rawson, Eleanor Hadley Kershaw, Louise Dynes and Jacque Minton
The BBSRC and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Nottingham
For more information on this year's project see the Nottingham iGEM 2020 Wiki page and to check out what iGEM is all about, visit their website.