2010 Team Minnesota Wins iGEM Gold
A Minnesota team of five undergraduate students led by an advising group of three post-docs and two BioTechnology Institute faculty members claimed gold in a major category of iGEM 2010 - the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition hosted annually by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At the November Jamboree, Team Minnesota presented their work to identify and transform protein-based compartments within cells that can allow metabolic reactions to occur without interruption. Utilizing these 'microcompartments' assembled in E. coli bacteria, the group demonstrated how they could function as natural nanobioreactors. For their project, the group was awarded gold for Best BioBrick Part, Natural.
"The students worked really hard over the summer to put a fantastic project together that has great potential to be further developed for applications in biocatalysis and biosynthesis," commented faculty advisor Claudia Schmidt-Dannert. "We are planning to build upon this project with current and new undergraduate student team members for next year's iGEM competition. "
The results of the group's project have potentially valuable applications, including the ability to tag enzymes and to improve biocatalytic processes by getting enzymes to associate with a specific location in the cytoplasm of a cell
"The students did an amazing job polishing their presentation ," added faculty advisor Jeffrey Gralnick, "and our postdocs also did a great job prepping them for both their presentation and their poster session.
In just seven years, iGEM has grown from an interim MIT short course to an international competition in synthetic biology. This year, 130 teams representing more than 25 different countries from around the world competed. Over 2,000 participants began the summer with a kit of biological parts and added new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. At the November Jamboree, the BioBrick trophy was presented to Team Slovenia for their project to enable control of the order and sequence of reactions in a particular biosynthetic pathway. Teams from China and England were runners up, and 19 additional awards were made in specific categories - including the award won by Team Minnesota.
Led by faculty members Jeffrey Gralnick and Claudia Schmidt-Dannert assisted by post docs Swati Choudhary, Ethan Johnson and Poonam Srivastava from the Schmidt-Dannert lab, Team Minnesota is comprised of College of Biological Sciences undergraduates Matthew Adams (junior - Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development), Rachel Farr (junior - Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development), Anthony Goering (senior - Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development) Annie Kathuria (senior with a double-major in Genetics and Neuroscience), and Ian Windsor (senior - Biochemistry). Johnson, who died from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run car accident in September, received special thanks from members of the group on their iGEM project website.
"He nurtured the talents of us all," the tribute to Johnson said, in part, "and made us better scientists."
In addition to their gold for Best BioBrick Part, Natural, Team Minnesota won a second gold citation for participation, which involved meeting all the requirements for characterizing their submitted parts and for testing other parts. The project's success was made possible in part by financial support from the BioTechnology Institute for travel expenses and summer research scholarships for the students and by support from the College of Biological Sciences in the form of lab space and supplies.
ABOVE: Clockwise from upper left surrounding a picture of the award, Matthew Adams, Rachel Farr, Anthony Goering, Ian Windsor, faculty advisor Jeffrey Gralnick, advisor Poonam Srivastava, advisor Ethan Johnson, advisor Swati Choudhary, faculty advisor Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, and Annie Kathuria.
ABOVE: Ian and Tony practicing on Friday night before the competition starts.
ABOVE: Tony, Annie and Matt are answering questions from one of the poster judges (in the maroon vest).