IISER Pune team wins a gold medal at the iGEM 2020 synthetic biology competition

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Pune, 26 Nov 2020: A team of 14 students from IISER Pune who competed at the 2020 international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) contest, have won a gold medal at the International Giant Jamboree held virtually during November 13-22, 2020. Close to 250 teams participated in the competition internationally, which consisted of poster presentations, workshops, keynote speeches and networking events.

The judges evaluated individual teams’ projects by going through team wikis (websites that teams develop about their project) and by interacting with the team members in judging sessions. The results were announced during the closing ceremony on the 22nd of November, 2020.

The iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition is an international competition organized to give high school and collegiate students a platform to use synthetic biology to tackle real life problems facing the world today. It recognizes and awards projects by students that make a meaningful contribution to the world using synthetic biology.

The IISER Pune team for iGEM 2020 competition worked on developing a multi-faceted approach towards eradicating Malaria. They aimed to develop a library of protein-based therapeutics to combat the disease and a simple, cheap and efficient diagnostic kit along with an awareness campaign aimed at informing the public about the methods of prevention and cure.

Working over 8 months, the team computationally designed short protein sequences that could be orally delivered as medication to stop the spread of Malaria in the human body. The team’s diagnostic kit consisted of an easy to use software that they developed with an accuracy of 95.45% that uses images of blood smears to detect Malaria. These images can be cheaply and easily obtained using the existing technologies of a Foldscope (a foldable microscope) and a Paper Centrifuge which cumulatively cost under 100 rupees.

This is the first gold medal from iGEM competition to a team from IISER Pune. The team also bagged the iGEMer’s award, meaning they were officially voted the best undergraduate team project by all the other teams in the competition. The team is thrilled with their results and hopes this project can be taken forward.

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