Bengaluru: A young team of undergraduate students from the Indian Institute of Science won a gold medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) contest held at Boston, USA from 9th – 13th November, 2017. Over 300 teams from all over the world participated in the competition.
The iGEM Competition is a premiere student team competition in Synthetic Biology. For over 10 years, iGEM has been encouraging students to work together to solve real-world challenges by building genetically engineered biological systems with standard, interchangeable parts. Student teams design, build and test their projects over the summer and gather to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree.
Team IISc-iGEM participated in the contest with an extra-ordinary idea to develop a new method to purify recombinant proteins in the laboratory. They made use of naturally occurring gas vesicles isolated from Halobacterial species. The presence of these vesicles help the bacteria float to the surface of the liquid medium. The team exploited this property to develop a method to purify proteins by tagging them to these gas vesicles. The project involved extensive use of biotechnology tools and gene cloning. The team optimized the protocol by using various chemical means to achieve maximum efficiency. They were successful in demonstrating the new method in multiple ways possible. The results were validated by classical biochemical tests like SDS-PAGE, Western blotting and also by sophisticated new age techniques like scanning electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. This project was named as project iFLOAT.
Another part of the project was to design a portable, automated device to measure absorbance of any given liquid. This design is the first of its kind where, microbial growth analysis can be performed in an automated and error-free manner. This device is named as the Growth Curve and Optical Density Device (GCODe). It has the features of real time optical density measurement, is easy to assemble and it can even send the readings to a smartphone. Most importantly, it’s performance at par with high end commercially available spectrophotometer at a two orders lesser price.
The team worked relentlessly for over 6 months. Their strategies, experiments and results were well documented and were submitted to the contest. The synthesized recombinant DNA and the GCODe device were shipped to the organizers well before the contest. A team of 6 students travelled to Boston to participate in the competition. They were evaluated based on their elaborate poster as well as oral presentations by the experts in the field of biotechnology and bioengineering. The team received generous funding from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
Team Members: (Represented IISc-iGEM at Boston)
Sai Padma Priya
Sharath K Menon
Dipshikha Chakravortty (Dept. of MCB & BSSE)
Utpal Nath (Dept. of MCB)
Akshay Datey (PhD Student, BSSE)
FUNDED BY: Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India (Contact Person: Dr. Sangita Kasture)