Oxford iGEM Team wins Gold Medal

The iGEM competition – ‘international genetically engineered machine’ – has been taking place every year in Boston, USA, since 2004. This year the competition attracted over 300 teams and over 3000 students from all over the world.

Oxford iGem TeamMultidisciplinary teams of students are encouraged to spend their summer seeking to exploit synthetic biology to address real world problems, from medical to environmental applications. This year a team led by the Department of Biochemistry and involving students from Engineering Science and Zoology achieved a Gold Medal for the third year in a row. The Oxford team addressed Wilson’s disease, which is a genetic mutation resulting in the body being unable to metabolise copper. If left untreated, the copper can accumulate to toxic levels and have severe health effects.

Engineering Science student, Harris Vince (St Edmund Hall), said: Being a rare disease, research into Wilson's disease is quite underfunded and there is currently only one treatment available for it. The single provider of the drug controls the market and has increased the price sevenfold in the past few years. We wanted to do something about this and so came up with a long-term solution: an affordable probiotic bacteria which regulates copper in the gut, restoring the concentration to healthy levels’. Other members of the team from Engineering Science were Iain Dunn (University College) and Shu Ishida (Christ Church College).

Iain Dunn, whose Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Vacation Bursary was aligned with the iGEM project, used mathematical modelling for the analysis and design of the synthetic circuit.

iGEM is a significant undergraduate interdisciplinary event and received funding from the Departments of Engineering Science, Physics and Zoology, as well as from the Department of Biochemistry and other sources.

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Modified on 01 December 2016