IISER Tirupati BSMS students win gold at iGEM2019!
Students from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Tirupati, secured a gold medal in their maiden attempt at the worldwide synthetic biology competition conducted by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) foundation at Boston (USA).
iGEM initially started as a study course at MIT in 2003 and went on to become a summer competition. Over the years, it has grown and worked for the progress of synthetic biology, and towards developing an open community and collaboration. The five-day “Giant Jamboree” event starting from the 31st of October brought together 375 participating teams from over 45 countries around the world. The teams present the exciting results of their projects, which they had worked on during the summer, and IISER Tirupati was one of the 57 collegiate teams to win a gold medal.
The fifteen-member team from IISER Tirupati was mentored by Dr. Raju Mukherjee and Prof. B.J. Rao, along with immense support from the director, Prof. K.N. Ganesh. The team was also very generously funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, which they secured by winning the grant at the Indian Genetic Engineering Competition (iBEC 2019) early this year.
The team worked towards developing a non-invasive and affordable treatment for colon cancer. They proposed the use of a synthetically engineered probiotic, which selectively targets colon cancer cells and upon sensing the lactate present in the environment, secretes an immunomodulator called Interleukin-12, which in turns helps to kill the tumour cells. The engineered bacterium has been ambitiously named CoCa coli, which is a portmanteau of “colon cancer versus E. coli”. The team members also sought the opinions of experts working in similar research areas, which helped to further their project. Another facet of the project was to interact with high school students to give them an exposure to the exciting field of synthetic biology and the potential it holds.
This was the first year of our institute’s participation in the iGEM competition. Our heartiest congratulations to our debutante team for making us proud with their achievement in this extremely competitive international event.