We collaborated with several iGEM teams from different countries and with different backgrounds. The exchange resulted in new inputs, insights and friendships.
We ran into the Freiburg team for the first time at the iGEM meet-up organized by the TU Delft team. Soon we realized that for both our projects the tumor microenvironment plays a crucial role. Their designer cells should be able to reliably interpret environmental signals and only become active if they are in a solid tumor. Similarly, our bacteria should be able to do so as well but with different signals. Since it’s hard to reproduce such an microenvironment in the labs that were available to us we wanted to combine our expertises and help each other overcome this issue.
To discuss in more detail how such a collaboration could look like we were invited for a BBQ in Freiburg.
At the university there, our anti-cancer protein of choice, azurin, is quite well known and routinely purified at lab courses. They therefore agreed to make a killing curve of azurin on a mammalian cell line. Further, they provided us with samples of azurin so that we can reproduce their data and conduct additional experiments. Without their help, verifying the action of azurin would have been very hard.
We, on the other hand, leveraged our experience in modelling of the tumor environment.
This years's team from Heidelberg worked, among other things, on mutagenesis plasmids for direct evolution applications. To improve reproducibility of their assay, they reached out to a number of teams and asked to participate in their mini-interlab study. We were happy to help out and are looking forward to the results of the experiments!
The Berlin team this year is building a diagnostic device for the pork tapeworm Taenia solium based on toehold switches. Since some of our modelling experts have worked on thermodynamical and kinetic models of toehold switches before, we didn’t hesitate to offer our help to them. Hence, we reviewed their existing models and gave suggestions on how to improve the code and further introduced them to other modelling tools that they applied for their switch design.
The team from Uppsala University decided to organize webinars with interested teams to discuss ethical issues around genetic engineering, social responsibility and intellectual property rights. We participated on the webinar on genetic engineering where we had interesting discussions on the issue with other teams from all over the world.