To update on our post about iGEM 2006, a synthetic biology competition at MIT held last week, Team Slovenia has been awarded the BioBrick, the grand prize for using “engineered cells to intercept the body’s excessive response to infection, which can lead to a fatal condition called sepsis.”
More from the MIT press office:
The Slovenian team was one of the few to work with mammalian cells. Ljubljana microbiology student Monika Ciglic said that the team chose the more challenging and complicated mammalian cells over bacteria or viruses because of the potential rewards of coming up with a system that could work in the human body. Sepsis has been cited as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. But while the other teams had an available toolkit of 500 “BioBricks”–snippets of DNA that have been proven to accomplish certain tasks–the Slovenian team had to build all its BioBricks from scratch.
Information about BioBricks, and a toolkit to make and manipulate them, was provided by the Registry of Standard Biological Parts created by MIT.
The first runner-up was a team from the Imperial College in London for its creation of an oscillator that was stable, had a high signal-to-noise ratio and could be easily integrated into other systems. Such a device has potential biomedical applications.
The second runner-up was the Princeton team for its work on programming mouse embryonic stem cells to differentiate on command. The technique could one day be used to create organs and tissues from stem cells, which have the ability to turn into any part of the body. Other projects with potential applications included the University of Edinburgh’s device to detect arsenic in well water, a problem that affects 100 million people around the world, especially in poorer nations.
The director of iGEM, Randy Rettberg, principal research engineer in biological engineering, said he is convinced synthetic biology will spawn a worldwide industry.