Making biology available to everyone
15 students with different backgrounds teamed up for a synthetic biology competition, declared democratic biology as their vision. After 9 months of hard work, they won a gold prize and a nomination for best entrepreneurship for their project last week in the Boston final of the synthetic biology competition. iGEM Stockholm team explained Medicor their mission, project and the inspiring teamwork behind it.
Watch the gold-winning presentation by the iGEM Stockholm team:
By Adele Kastensson, Larsen Vornholz
To us, iGEM is more than a competition, it is an extraordinary learning experience where we have gained skills that no ordinary course could have taught us. The iGEM journey enabled us to grow on both an academic and a personal level as we learned to work better in a team, to listen, to take responsibility, and to believe in ourselves.
What is iGEM?
iGEM stands for “international Genetically Engineered Machines” and is the world’s biggest competition in synthetic biology, initiated at MIT in 2003. Synthetic biology is a fusion of versatile engineering and biology disciplines, where engineering principles are applied to biological components and systems. Currently, this student-driven project engages over 5000 students worldwide to work towards a common goal – to design and perform a mini startup-like project that aims to solve a real-world issue with global impact.
Who is part of iGEM Stockholm 2017?
The team consists of students from KI, KTH, Konstfack and Hyper Island covering 7 study fields, 11 nationalities and equally representing genders. From KI, the students represent bachelor and master studies in Biomedicine, Toxicology, Bioentrepreneurship and Medicine.
What are we doing?
After months of intense brainstorming and researching, we finally settled on something we all found equally exciting: mucus.
When researching this peculiar substance, we found studies showing heavily thickened mucus in the lungs of patients suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis. This condition severely reduces these patients’ life quality. Thus, we decided to address this issue by developing a new treatment approach: lung probiotics.
The probiotics – beneficial bacteria – would reside in the patient’s lungs, sense when the mucus is too thick, and subsequently make it normal again by expressing mucus degrading enzymes in a self-regulating manner.
What have we done outside the lab?
Besides the intense research, iGEM is also about raising awareness of synthetic biology and our project’s impact via public outreach. Therefore, we hosted a number of student seminars and organized a panel discussion about “Ethics of Engineering Life”. We were even invited to the Cystic Fibrosis Games in Stockholm to represent our project.
Furthermore, we also want to make biology more available – not just to the ones already belonging to the scientific community – but to everyone, leading us to coin the phrase “Democratic biology”. In our democratic biology campaign, we held a discussion about “Man vs. Machine” at Stockholm’s new innovation festival and hosted a station at Kids Hack Day to teach kids about biology.
Learn more about the project elements from iGEM Stockholm Wiki page.
iGEM continues to be an evergrowing international community. See it for yourself on the map that shows all the iGEM teams from 2004 to 2016.
The competition is planned to take place next year on October 24 – 28 in Boston, MA, USA.
Do you want to be part of the iGEM Stockholm 2018? Make sure to apply at www.igem.se/join.html and keep your eyes open for the next iGEM Medicor article in December to hear more about the project outcome and the team’s Boston adventure •