After 6 days heated competition, 2015 World Finals of iGEM(International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition) came to its end recently in Hynes Convention Center. Two teams from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, named SJTU-BioX-Shanghai and SJTU-Software won the gold medal.
Led by Academician He Lin and Associate Professor Ma Gang, SJTU-Biox-Shanghai consisted of 14 undergraduates from SJTU School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology and Zhiyuan College. The team's project "Cyano Pac-man" was to build biodesalination system in cyanobacteria. Common seawater desalination technology, such as reverse osmosis could not be scaled up to wide use due to high energy consumption. To develop biodesalination was to build an efficient and energy-saving desalination system. The team used photosynthetic cyanophyta as desalination chassis cell and light-driven CI pump halorhodopsin as desalination driver, dark-induced promoter as desalination controller, successfully built an energy-efficient biodesalination system depending only on natural light and dark conditions. This biodesalination system successfully lowered the concentration of Na and CI by 20% in lab environment. The team kept practicing and exploring feasible cyanophyta-water separation process. The team put forward with the idea that biodesalination can be used as pretreatment of reverse osmosis.
Supervised by Chaochun Wei, Hongyu Ou and Feng Chen, SJTU-Software was a team of 14 undergraduates from School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering, School of Biochemical Engineering and School of Media and Design. The team's project "BASE" was developed from last year's project "Easy BBK-An Easy Biobrick Blueprint's Package". "BASE" integrated main functions of "Easy BBK" and implemented it by web application. The team built a new BioBrick database and added more information about BioBrick to official database. This was to better measure reliability level in experiment and sort search results by user need or BioBrick mass. The BioBrick drawing tool designed by the team made it possible for standardization of future BioBrick and the design of smart guided BioBrick. Moreover, the uploading tool developed by the team could connect information of each sub BioBrick with database, thus making uploading information more efficient. The innovative design aroused interest of judges and received excellent review in poster presentation and oral defense.
iGEM was first launched by MIT in 2004, designed for college students and gradually developed to be the top academic competition in Synthetic Biology. Supervised by specialized committee, the competition was also an interdisciplinary contest that involved mathematics, physics, electronics and computer science. iGEM requires contestants to select topic independently and trains their independent innovation, teamwork spirit and enthusiasm in science. The competition is also an international exchange platform for students majoring in diversified fields from the world over. iGEM 2015 attracted 270 teams from the globe, including teams from top universities such as MIT, Harvard, Cambridge and Heidelburg University. China sent 61 teams to the competition.
Each year several projects in iGEM were published in Science and Nature. In addition, iGEM expects excellent comprehensive capabilities and skills from contestants, it also covers various non-experiment tasks, for example, designing poster for project introduction, launching awareness campaigns to popularize Synthetic Biology.