The surge in popularity of Synthetic Biology as an engineering discipline in recent years can in many ways be attributed its passionate community  . Much effort has been spent on promoting SynBio as an excellent media for boundaryless open scientific collaboration, exchanges and education, surely inspired by the success of the Open Source initiative  . The arguably most important event in the encouragement of this pragmatic Linus’ law-inspired engagement of Open Synthetic Biology is the annual iGEM competition during which students partake in developing the tools of trade.
To mold the future of the discipline, cooperation, respect, good sportsmanship and celebration of the collective efforts are some of the core values presented by the iGEM Foundation. The most lucid manifestation of this is the endorsement of scientific collaboration between project groups - in stark contrast to the more commonly found mano-a-mano style competition. As a team that chose to work with microplastics for the joint opportunity to not only contribute to synthetic biology but raise awareness of how we can collectively make strides toward reducing plastic pollution, these values resonated with our beliefs as a group of aspiring ecoconscious scientists. Thus, we engaged in as many exchanges as we found possible, to varying degrees of comprehension.
We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to all the teams that we have been in correspondence with during the passing year. Your passion, optimism and tenacity inspired us to make the most out of the iGEM experience.
Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering Chennai
After an extensive skype meeting with the iGEM team of SVCE Chennai in which we exchanged ideas, suggestions and well-wishes, we stumbled upon the opportunity to assist them in their project. They had set out to create a library of adaptors between transcriptional and translational regulation in E. coli by combining the translational regulatory system of the tna operon in combination with riboswitch like elements responding to the physicochemical conditions of the cell. However, as they had limited prior experience with modeling of biological networks, they were unsure as how to proceed with the synthesis of reaction rate equations for a quantitative description of the gene expression dynamics. Coincidentally, we had just finished a similar analysis of our project and all parties collectively agreed that we would attempt to model their system. After a few additional skype-sessions and email correspondence, we were provided a clear understanding of the organization of their genetic circuits and we set out to design the set of differential equations. Upon completion, we provided them with a document that presented the differential equations, an explanation of the derivation, the potential limits of the model and friendly suggestions on how to approach the estimation of the conformational rate change constant between the sequestered SD site and unfolded mRNA chain. The document can be found here.
We are very grateful to the 2017 SVCE Chennai iGEM team for introducing us to the exciting world of mRNA regulation and its applicability in translational control and for allowing us to be a part of their iGEM experience.
Technical University of Denmark
The DTU team generously provided us with transformed DH5-ɑ colonies for the InterLab study due to our initial struggle of successfully transforming the competent DH5-ɑ cells acquired from the Department of Biotechnology at Lund University. However, as no fluorescence was detected after overnight inoculation of the colonies as per DTU’s suggestion, we were unfortunately unable to use their samples to gather the necessary data.
Chalmers University of Technology Gothenburg
After discussing our limited success in transforming the competent DH5-ɑ cells that were provided by the Division of Biotechnology at Lund University, Chalmers Gothenburg courteously offered to supply us with enough cells to make a bacterial glycerol stock.
University of Copenhagen
The University of Copenhagen kindly provided us with their protocols for the transformation of competent DH5-ɑ cells.
Chalmers University of Technology Gothenburg
During the process of creating a cohesive strategy on how best to approach the outreach component of our project, we concluded that a public seminar would be a good medium. This would allow us to both communicate the importance of sustainability as well as discuss the seemingly endless applicability of synthetic biology. This would in addition give us an opportunity to open up a dialogue with our local community. Coincidentally, Lund University is celebrating their 350th anniversary this year and offered an impressive range of public lectures throughout the year and upon request, we were allocated a slot. To ensure depths and flavor, we asked Chalmers Gothenburg to co-host the seminar which they readily accepted, much to our delight. Together, we hosted a two-hour long public seminar discussing various topics of synthetic biology. It was well received and we are beyond pleased with the outcome. Chalmers Gothenburg navigated their parts with elegance, displaying fundamental insight into the subject area and a remarkable ability to communicate science. For more information about the collaboration with Chalmers Gothenburg, see engagement.
Dresden University of Technology
This year, TU Dresden made an excellent effort in promoting environmental sustainability through the introduction of the iGEM Goes Green initiative. The initiative takes on the challenge of presenting a comprehensive set of guidelines and recommendations on how best to approach the iGEM journey through a green lens. As we had decided to work with microplastics for much the same reasons - to promote and encourage a more ecoconscious attitude - we happily incorporated many of the suggestions put forward. For a more elaborate discussion on the iGEM Goes Green concept and our efforts, see GoGreen.
Embracing a more contemporary take on scientific communication, Uppsala University hosted a series of webinars in which they discussed ethical and legal considerations in synthetic biology with iGEM teams from all over the world. We partook in the seminar concerning biosafety and the potential risks associated with the Open Synthetic Biology concept.
The Nordic iGEM Conference
In June, the University of Copenhagen hosted the annual Nordic iGEM Conference, a weekend intended to bring the nordic iGEM teams together and give them a hint of what they might come to expect of the Giant-Jamboree in Boston. A total of nine different iGEM teams participated in three days of activities, ranging from seminars on synthetic biology and team organizational tools to more informal festivities. During the second day of the event, the teams were presented with the opportunity to elaborate on their project ideas in a mini-jamboree. The presentations were evaluated by a panel of professional scientists and friendly suggestions and feedback were given on the project design and delivery respectively. A winner was determined and we are proud to say that not only were we the judges’ choice and consequently the winners of the mini-jamboree, our presentation was voted the favorite among the NiC participants. We were awarded with a golden pipette and will be the hosts of the 2018 Nordic iGEM conference.
We want to extend our sincerest congratulations to the University of Copenhagen team for hosting such a spectacular weekend.
The Stockholm iGEM team was in many ways integral to the success of the early stages of our iGEM journey. As the first team from Lund participating in the iGEM competition, we found the process of organizing the initial juncture quite the challenge as we were uncertain of what to expect from the competition and how prosperously to structure the team organization. The Stockholm team kindly provided recommendations on these matters and in addition sent us some templates outlining the process of seeking funding.
São Paulo State University School of Pharmacy at Araraquara
As another recently established iGEM team, AQA UNESP were faced with a lot of similar challenges in the wet-lab as we had experienced. This ultimately lead to a rewarding video conference consisting of joint debugging of our protocols. In particular, the InterLab study was discussed at length and we were provided with several practical suggestions that, upon implementation, improved the outcome of our transformations.
University of Amsterdam
Early on in the project we had a dialogue with the University of Amsterdam team in which we the optimal route to a successful project. As they professed some initial worry regarding the funding of their project, we provided them with the strategies we had used to successfully acquire funding in addition to a brochure we had created to trigger interest in potential sponsors.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
In the later stages of the iGEM project, we exchanged a rewarding video correspondence with the established Missouri S&T team. This provided us with the opportunity to reflect and review the decisions that were made during the course of the project together with a seasoned project group, leaving us with insightful suggestions as how to better organize the project for the years to come.