2019 iGEM Teams
Psilocybin, found naturally in ‘magic mushrooms’ (Psilocybe spp.), has shown great promise in clinical trials for the treatment of mental illnesses. Currently, psilocybin is produced via chemical synthesis, which is expensive and limits its availability for research. This project aims to clone the psilocybin biosynthesis pathway genes (psiH, psiD, psiK, psiM) into Escherichia coli, to provide a cheaper and more reliable source of this compound. Previous work has shown that the fungal enzymes PsiD, PsiK, and PsiM are functional when expressed in bacteria, but PsiH is untested. We will use codon harmonization and N-terminal modification methods to optimize PsiH expression and complete the biosynthetic pathway.
Taxol is a potent cytotoxic drug used in the treatment of breast, lung, and ovarian cancers. However, the structural complexity of Taxol has proven to be a challenge for its scalable and economic production. Currently, the clinical supply of Taxol is mainly sourced through direct extraction from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree, semi-synthesis from the tree’s needles, and plant cell culture. Our project, “Assemblase”, offers an alternative biosynthetic route. Enzymes involved in the rate-limiting step of Taxol semi-synthesis are co-localised by the protein scaffold through a covalent bond formation. This spatial arrangement alleviates diffusion-related limitations of enzyme catalysis rates, with the aim of enhancing reaction efficiency and yield of Taxol precursors. Assemblase presents an efficient solution that can satisfy the increasing demand and drive down the price of the blockbuster drug, Taxol, and other therapeutic compounds.
Hydrogen gas detection is challenging, being odourless, colourless and explosive at low concentrations (4%). From the canary in the coal mine to the advanced gas detection equipment available today, the reliable detection of gas leaks is critical. Hydrogen gas detectors are prone to cross-sensitivity due to the presence of other gases interfering with the measurement. Our Macquarie_Australia “HyDRA” iGEM team designed a hydrogen gas biosensor gene construct containing a NiFe hydrogenase, cyclic-di-GMP riboswitch and cyclic-di-GMP phosphodiesterase. Our hydrogen-sensing construct produces a fluorescent signal upon exposure to hydrogen within the limits considered as a safety threat (40,000 ppm)
We are designing an affordable alternative system to aid in stroke diagnosis. As a first step, we are creating a biosensor to measure serum ratio of glutamate and GABA, which is a good indicator of early neurological deterioration following the attack. To this end, we are aiming to engineer two protein chimaeras containing sequences from Marvin et al. (2013, 2019) and existing bio-bricks. These proteins will consist of a domain that binds the target ligand and an associated fluorescent domain that becomes activated upon binding, as well as a truncated form of a bacterial Ice Nucleation Protein that acts as both a membrane anchor and a localisation signal to facilitate cell surface expression.
The rise of electric vehicles has created a large demand for batteries. And, with the recent push to declare a climate emergency, it seems that this demand will not be satisfied by building greater quantities of environment-damaging rare metal batteries (eg. lithium-ion). This iGEM project addresses this issue by building an enzymatic fuel cell to use the abundant, industrial by-product, glycerol to efficiently create clean energy. A three-enzyme pathway and the mild radical oxidant TEMPO-NH2 are used to carry out the complete oxidation of glycerol. The relevant kinetics data is reported with either spectro-photometric measurements of NADH or quantitative H-NMR.
2018 iGEM Teams
2017 iGEM Teams
See a sum of the 2017 iGEM presence here. This year’s teams were:
2016 iGEM Teams
2016 iGEM Local Teams Meet-Up
The four Australian iGEM teams and their supervisors came together on Friday evening (14/10/16) for the inaugural local teams meet-up, supported by SBA. The venue was a somewhat shabby 1970’s era tutorial room in the Biochemistry building at the University of Sydney. Luckily, the science presented by these young synthetic biologists was far from shabby.
The hosts (USyd team) kicked off proceedings with a presentation on their project entitled FRESH (Fruit Ripeness Ethylene Sensor (Hopefully)) The idea was that the regulatory elements used by bacteria which grow on ethylene could be hijacked, and linked to a colorimetric output, such as the amilCP chromoprotein. The team succeeded in making some new chromoprotein variants via error prone PCR, but at the time of writing, are still pursuing the goal of proving that the regulatory genes and promoters function as expected. The ‘human practices’ elements of the USyd project included outreach to students at schools, at the university Open Day, and at the Australian museum during Science Week; they also interacted with the fresh fruit industry to get ideas about the marketability of their biosensor.
The UNSW team followed on with a presentation on their project “BLEB”, which aimed to make E.coli strains that create outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) for use in all manner of biotechnology applications. These OMVs are very attractive potential SynBio tools; for example, they allow the different enzymes from a single metabolic pathway to be brought together in a defined space, which contains a ‘friendly’ biochemical environment. OMVs are also attractive since they are not themselves GMOs, and thus would available for applications in which whole cells would not be legal. The UNSW team human practices included surveying various local experts in both environmental and medical biotechnology, to determine whether there was a market for their OMVs, and also engaging with school students at functions hosted by outreach organisations B.Inspired and Aspire.
After a break for pizza and drinks, the science resumed with the Macquarie Uni team showcasing the latest instalment of their grand plan to create a photosynthetic E.coli. As always, the team impressed with the amount of progress, submitting many new parts to the Registry, and edging even-closer to this ambitious goal. The team also unveiled a new twist on the project, which was a plan for a portable hydrogen generator, to take advantage of this potentially very useful by-product from the photosynthetic apparatus. We were also entertained by a short movie the Maq. team had produced, interviewing rural folks about how they could use the hydrogen source, and getting feedback on the design, as part of their human practices work.
Finally, the University of Melbourne iGEM team presented their work on engineering star peptides. Special thanks must go to Rob Naturani for making the trip solo to represent his team, a heroic effort on behalf of his comrades south of the border. The star scaffold system is an intriguing and versatile platform technology which allows cross-linking of different proteins, for example as a way of enhancing reaction kinetics via enzyme colocalisation. The Melbourne 2016 project improved the design of the 2014 team by adding split inteins to the star scaffold, with the idea that these would enable joining to other target proteins, with the intein simultaneously self-splicing out of the picture. A very cool concept.
Will bellies full of pizza and heads full of science, the teams and their supervisors headed home. It was a great night, with both honest constructive criticism and hearty pats on the back shared between teams. There was a genuine feeling of community, which is really what iGEM is all about.
Dr. Nick Coleman | Senior Lecturer in Microbiology
School of Life and Environmental Sciences | Faculty of Science
THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY