The Owligos are the first-ever team entered into the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition by Birkbeck, University of London. We’re a varied group of students who reflect the diversity and unique character of our institution: many of us have chosen science as a second career, having already spent some time in full-time work. For most of us, this has meant making our way through a degree while continuing to work full-time. Hopefully this kind of dedication will help us successfully navigate our way through our iGEM project.
Our project aims to create a new diagnostic solution that will be low-tech and cost-effective enough to allow its usage in deprived and remote communities. We’re attempting to engineer a bacteriophage lambda chassis to change its host affinity, while simultaneously adding a marker that will facilitate easy detection of a target bacterial pathogen in patient samples.
To demonstrate this approach as a proof of concept for the competition, we plan to change this affinity between different strains of E.coli; however, ultimately we hope to demonstrate that this principle could also be applied to alter the phage’s host range to other bacterial species. We could then provide a modular system capable of diagnosing a range of diseases. Of course, we haven’t chosen a simple goal. But as Birkbeck pioneers, we are determined to prove ourselves by making our project a success. We can’t wait to present the results of our work at the Giant Jamboree in September!