We believe it is important to engage those who are close to us in our project. To realize this ambition, we initiated a crowdfunding campaign that allowed financing the purification process of the Cas13a protein. In addition to this support we received, we raised awareness of the importance of our synthetic biology project by reaching out via social media, our crowdfunding page on the Onepercentclub and announcement screens across the TU Delft campus. In order to introduce our project in an accessible way, we made a video describing our project:
Project description on the crowdfunding page
iGEM | We are the iGEM TU Delft 2017 DreamTeam: a team of 13 ambitious students participating in iGEM, the largest international student competition in synthetic biology. Each year, more than 300 student teams look for a clever solution to a societal problem using the molecular tools of our field of study. We aim to make it possible for a farmer to select the right treatment for his sick cattle and stimulate responsible usage of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance | Antibiotics are a type of drug that are used for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections. Their misuse, for example in livestock farming, allows infection-causing bacteria to develop mechanisms that render the antibiotics ineffective: the bacteria become antibiotic resistant. This means that these bacterial infections become more difficult to treat in humans and animals. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today. This is a global problem, because antibiotic resistance arising in countries with insufficient regulation will spread across borders. During the recent G20 summit, the world leaders decided it’s time for action!
Time for action | We are this year’s iGEM TU Delft Dream Team and we want to contribute to a solution. We are developing a simple tool able to detect antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria. The knowledge from this tool, which indicates for different types of antibiotics whether they will be effective, stimulates a targeted treatment, thus limiting the further spread of antibiotic resistance.
Current methods are limited | Current antibiotic resistance detection is time-consuming, expensive and requires a specialized facility. However, for a farmer that wants to cure its sick cattle, time is of the essence.
Our solution | The tool we develop allows for fast and cheap detection of antibiotic resistance genes and can be used on site. In designing our tool, we meet three design requirements:
Sensitivity: finding a needle in a haystack Sensitive detection is achieved by using a newly characterized protein, called Cas13a, that can detect these antibiotic resistance genes with great sensitivity and subsequently can produce a signal that is visible to the naked eye.
Safety: making a system that can be used on the farm safely In order to make our tool safe for use on-site, outside specialized lab facilities, we ensure it is cell-free. The genetically engineered bacterium that we use to produce the proteins, is itself not in the tool: we extract only the required functional components.
Storability: long shelf life Our tool should be ready for usage in the field: the protein must survive for a long time in conditions that it normally dislikes. To this extend, we employ a new drying method that is inspired by nature. Tardigrades, also known as “water bears”, are micro-organisms that are very resistant to dry environments, due to special tardigrade proteins that they contain. These tardigrade proteins can be isolated and used to conserve our Cas13a proteins until usage.
All in all, we offer a complete system to help combat antibiotic resistance.
We need help | In order to develop our system, we require the Cas13a protein. We engineer bacteria to produce this protein. Subsequently, we can extract and purify the protein. However, our manual optimization of this purification process is highly expensive, which is why we are asking you for help! We require several materials, including proteins, enzymes and buffers in order to successfully conduct this purification. With these materials, we can realize our detection system and fight antibiotic resistance.
We’re thankful | In return for showing your dedication to this innovative research, you will get your very own, personalized, bacterium cartoon on our official website and Facebook. In addition, the more generous you support our project, the greater the rewards: a signed postcard, DNA keychain, iGEM TU Delft 2017 mug or even a lab tour!
Let’s make a difference | With your support we hope to be successful in our project and contribute to improving global health!
Find the full description of our project on our project description page