Queen's Canada iGEM team was very excited to collaborate with various other iGEM teams this past summer. Together, we were able to build a stronger iGEM community, and progress in our respective projects - the insight of others providing great advancement.
This year, QGEM collaborated with the Ontario Genetically Engineered Machine (oGEM) Collective, which is composed of iGEM teams from the universities of Toronto, Guelph (new this year), Waterloo, McMaster, and Ottawa. With oGEM, we meet several times during the year to discuss ways to promote iGEM in Ontario, funding strategies, project troubleshooting, and new ways to collaborate for wet lab, dry lab, and policy and practice departments.
One of the oGEM collaborations featured this year was promoting iGEM to new potential teams, and creating a detailed database of helpful tips and tricks for wiki development - a task most teams noticeably struggle with. Through web conferencing, email, and simply communicating ideas in person at the oGEM meetings, these valuable tidbits and thoughts were shared. The ability to discuss QGEM's wiki struggles with others, and gain insight into possible methods of remediation, was extremely valuable to QGEM.
Canadian iGEM Newsletter
This summer, the University of Calgary initiated a Canadian iGEM Newsletter - a fantastic opportunity QGEM was eager to participate in. As each participating iGEM team shared monthly recaps (pertaining to all aspects of their respective projects), QGEM was able to easily learn what other iGEM teams were up to. Thus, allowing faster communication between teams given a deeper understanding of each other's work, and therefore, stronger collaborations. QGEM has participated in all Canadian iGEM Newsletters to date (two volumes).
Participation in the Canadian iGEM Newsletter allowed QGEM to realize the parallels existing between QGEM's project, and Waterloo's. Ultimately resulting in communicating the idea of a collaboration between the two teams.
Collaboration with Waterloo
This summer, QGEM's Dry Lab created a ratiometric software application. This program works to read user input of designated protein ratio in the biofilm. Based on other user input constraints, such as organism and plasmid backbone, the program then outputs the required promoter and RBS sequences needed to produce such a biofilm.
Given the striking similarity in QGEM's bifunctional biofilm optimization project, to that of Waterloo's prion based, a logical collaboration existed between the two team. This summer QGEM faced a deficit in web development knowledge, which Waterloo was eager to aid with - graciously offering to building a web accessible version of the software for public use. Both teams planned to build upon the existing software program, broadening its bases of organism knowledge. QGEM primarily worked with E.coli this summer, and thus, the program solely contained an E.coli database. In contrast, Waterloo worked with Yeast this summer, and therefore planned to add Yeast data to our organism database. Waterloo hoped to then utilize the program, allowing faster progression of their project - as optimal parts of their organism would be quickly brought to their knowledge, saving valuable time.
Unfortunately, this collaboration between teams did not happen until late into the summer, and not enough time existed to complete the collaboration to its full extent. Nevertheless, the opportunity to discuss projects to parallel in idea and execution provided imperative problem solving aid to both teams. Waterloo brought to the attention of QGEM, various parameters that should and could be incorporated into the ratiometric program. For example, looking into the effects of degradation rates of protein production. Incorporating these aspects produced in much stronger, more accurate results from the ratiometric program. Similar feedback, along with tips and tricks, were given back to Waterloo who similarly directly benefited from the ongoing collaboration.
Collaboration with Sydney
This summer, QGEM was contacted by the University of Sydney iGEM team, who were interested in learning more about the oGEM network in their quest to set up an Australasian iGEM network. As a result, QGEM shared with Sydney iGEM details on how oGEM meetings are organized and structured during the summer, and provided information on meeting agendas, topics of discussion at oGEM meetings, methods of communication, sponsorships for oGEM meetups, and strategies for promoting oGEM to industry and academia. Some advice we gave regarding setting up an iGEM network included:
- Establishing a consistent and effective form of communication between all teams (e.g. Slack)
- Drafting an iGEM handbook for new teams to ease transitioning year to year
- Contacting a local organization with similar values for a partnership to sponsor future team meetups (e.g. Ontario Genomics for oGEM)
Starting a new iGEM team is no easy task. For this reason, we encourage all iGEM teams to build national/regional networks to support team collaboration, promote iGEM and synthetic biology to academia and industry, and encourage other universities and high schools to become involved with iGEM!