A team of undergraduates from IISER Pune has bagged a Bronze Medal at the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) contest held at Boston, USA from September 24-28, 2015.
iGEM first started in 2003 as an Independent Activity Period (IAP) project of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. It has since grown and gone international with over 280 teams from all over the world participating in 2015. In this Synthetic Biology contest participants are expected to design molecular “bio-devices” in a manner that combines their understanding of genetically encoded parts with additions from anything ranging from art to nano-fabrication.
This year, a team of ten 2nd year BS-MS students from IISER Pune: Siddhesh Zadey, Prachiti Moghe, Rahul Biradar, Gayatri Mundhe, Prashant Uniyal, Ira Phadke, Snehal Kadam, Harsh Gakhare, Swapnil Bodkhe and Yash Jawale signed up under the guidance of Dr Chaitanya Athale (Assistant Professor, IISER Pune). To help them troubleshoot the experimental and theoretical aspects, two PhD students, from the Athale-Lab, Neha Khetan and Manasi Gangan, volunteered to help out. After a hectic summer and last minute experiments, two novel DNA sequences were submitted to the common repository of iGEM. Finally, six of the members were selected to present their work as a talk and poster to the international audience at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, USA.
The IISER Pune team was amongst a list of Bronze-Medal winners – one of only two from India. Their project “Mycobacterium Revelio” was targeted to develop a cost-effective diagnostic tool for detecting the causative pathogen for tuberculosis (TB). Using ideas from synthetic biology, simulations of genetic networks and combined with basic microbiology, the team designed a genetic device they refer to as “the Terminator”. This sequence in its eventual function aims to cause a cessation of cell division when turned on, to keep the Mycobacterial population at a fixed size. Additional modules, “Detection” for instance aimed to use visible dyes that genetically trigger the appearance of colour in the target organism, M. tuberculosis.
This year the IISER Pune team had also hosted a national meet-up of Indian teams participating in iGEM 2015, with groups from IIT Kharagpur and IIT Delhi visiting the institute. The work was funded by IISER Pune, the Department of Biotechnology and corporate sponsorship from Qiagen, Eppendorf and Merck-Millipore, with additional support from Mathworks and IDT.
We congratulate team Mycobacterium Revelio and wish them success in their future endeavours.