iGEM Toulouse 2015

Meetups & Collaborations

Among the greatest opportunities offered by iGEM, the most thriving one is the potentiality to meet and work with scientists from all over the world, either by building on already existing professional network, or by collaborating with iGEM teams. You can read here about our interactions with other teams.

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KU Leuven

Owing to our successful posters presentation at Exposciences
, the organizers asked us to participate in the International Exposciences which took place in Brussels, Belgium, between the 19th and the 25th of July. We met four representatives of the iGEM KU Leuven team (Belgium).
For an entire afternoon, we exchanged views about our projects and particularly about the modelling part since both teams were using different software and methods to model cell behaviour. iGEM KU Leuven team uses (among others) the MatLab software to model various cellular phenomena and we are using Opflux software to evaluate cellular capabilities.

Meet-up in Bordeaux - 29th/30th August

The French-speaking meet-up took place in Bordeaux on the 29th and the 30th of August. Numerous teams were represented there: Bordeaux, Paris Saclay, Paris Pasteur, Leuven (Belgium), EPFL (Switzerland), Aix-Marseille and our own team.

The program of this meet-up was very complete, from the discovery of Bordeaux through a tour of the city to the presentation of each project and activities prepared by some of the teams.
The presentations were held in a museum called CapSciences, dedicated to the popularization of science. We had to present our project both in French and English to a public composed of the other teams and non scientific people. It was very interesting to work on our communication skills and trying to find the balance between simplistic talk understandable by the general public and a scientific communication with our peers. It was also a great opportunity to learn about other team's projects.

On Sunday, the two Parisian teams had prepared activities. Paris Pasteur was a survey related to their subject. Paris Saclay offered us to reflect on biosafety applied to our projects. They helped us identify the potential dangers in our project and how we could act on them. Each team was filmed explaining their solution. You can find our own video here.

All in all this meet-up was a great chance to exchange and get to know other French-speaking teams. We would like to warmly thank the Bordeaux team for the organization of this special event!


KU Leuven team - Modeling the diffusion of the molecules in our trap

During our time in Brussels for ExpoSciences international, we decided to launch a collaboration with the KU Leuven team. We exchanged about our tools and methods for modeling and finally collaborated on some specific parts of the project. You can see the result of our common work just below.

From Belgium with love

To evaluate the efficiency of our trap's design, we wanted to model the diffusion of the acids we produce in our trap. We were not experts in this type of modelling, and the KU LEUVEN team very kindly accepted to help us with this. Big thanks to them!
You can find their results in our modelling part here.

The French touch

To help them in their project, KU Leuven Team asked us if we would be able to model the effects of the production of two metabolites of interest on the growth rate of their strain. We designed and analyzed a Flux Balance Analysis based approach to answer their question.
The results are presented on their wiki and we invite you to visit this page to see them.

METU HS Ankara team - International data about Varroa

We discovered during the summer that the team from METU High School in Ankara was working on the same subject as us, the fight against Varroa destructor. We had a Skype conversation with them about the way we could help each other out.

Skype conversation with the Ankara team. Even if the connection was poor, we exchanged a lot of ideas and the discussion was fruitful.

Based on their idea we decided to create a survey to be launched in Turkey and France in order to have a better idea of the extent of beehives’ infestation by varroas. The results of this survey are presented below.

From France

We wish to underline the fact that in France there are few professional beekeepers, most of them are amateurs and own only a few hives. Thus there is no unity between these beekeepers, nor any syndicate. Hence the beekeepers that answered our survey were already interested in our project and aware of the problem caused by Varroa. We would like to kindly thank them for their participation and their help:
Matthieu Bourgeois, Michel Rives, François Sénéchal, Daniel Goubert, Lauras, Sébastien Bernard, Henri Martin, Marie Nadau, Michel Muller, Charlotte Bompard, Bruno Frémont, Gérard Corvée, Jean Rouquet.

As said previously, all beekeepers having answered the survey know about varroa and other ailments of the bees, such as American/European foulbrood, varroosis (caused by varroa), mycosis, chronic paralysis, nosema, sacced or chalk brood, deformed wings virus, colony collapse syndrome, acariosis or other dangers like the Asian hornet (a predator), pesticides or mold.

Impacts of Varroa’s presence:

Varroa itself acts both as a parasite feeding itself of the bee’s hemolymph, which weakens it, but also as a vector of pathogens like viruses that spread in an already weakened colony. A beehive’s infestation by varroa is visible through:

  • The presence of bees with deformed or atrophied wings
  • The decrease of honey yield
  • The weakening of the colony
  • In the most serious cases, the death of the queen and total loss of the colony

Beekeepers observed an exponential growth of varroa population in the colonies during summer. Infestation stays at a bearable level during the summer, and it increases tremendously at the end of it, leading to the death of the colonies during fall or winter.
Needless to say, this infestation has a financial impact, be it because of a decreased honey yield when it is sold, or because of the necessity of buying treatments or even new swarms. ¾ of beekeepers say they are affected financially by this mite.

Measures against varroa and their efficiency:

Beekeepers use different kinds of methods in the fight against varroa: physical methods such as a wire-mesh floor or the destruction of male broods (preferentially infested by varroas), chemical methods with products like apivar, amitraz, formic and oxalic acids, or essential oils, and finally the genetic selection of resistant bee strains.
Need These diverse methods are more or less efficient. The most efficient of the treatments are the chemical ones, but this efficiency is never 100%.

Description of treatments, pros and cons:

Treatment Pros Cons
Formic acid, oxalic acid Cheap, non fat-soluble (no persistence in the wax) Hard to dose, might induce the wrapping and death of the queen
Apilife var Organic product but to be used only after the heat waves for fear of losing the queens Incomplete efficiency, and a beekeeper observed deserted hives
Amitraz, Taktic - Residual product in the honey
Essential oils: vetiver, lavander, thymul… Organic product, no identified toxicity No identified disadvantages
Apistan Easy to use, does not cause death of the bees Necessity to wear gloves while using it
Apivar Recommended by some beekeeping trainers Necessity to wear gloves while using it

Some beekeepers believe they don’t have enough perspective to estimate this impact. Furthermore, since most of them are amateurs honey production is not their first object. They are more concerned about the welfare of bees as pollinators.

This being said, we can state that honey quality is not affected by most products since they are used after the harvest and have enough time to disappear from the hive before the following year’s harvest.

On the other hand, production is affected in the sense that an insufficiently treated beehive will have a population too small to effectively make honey. The size of the colony is linked to the harvest. If the queen lays a lot of eggs but varroas are numerous and weaken the new bees, the colony will weaken and will not be able to gather a lot of pollen to make honey.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that most beekeepers told us they would be interested in a treatment against varroa that is efficient, ecological and respectful of the bees.


All the beekeepers who answered our questions were informed about our project and the logic of synthetic biology. Our participants were Prof. Dr. Ender Yarsan, Mehmet Erdogan, Kaan Keskin, Kursad Ceseroglu, Kursat Zeynel Utlu, Turabi Guney and Yasar Tekin. All of our seven beekeepers experienced the parasite: varroa. However, the beekeepers were mistrustful and thought that our project could be more dangerous than useful and said that the drugs they use are enough to treat the hives.

We asked the beekeepers about the bee illnesses they knew and here is their answers: lime, nosema, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, paralysis, septicemia, gravel and environmental illnesses. Being prepared and having reserves against varroa is an important issue for them, too.

Measures against varroa and their efficiency

The measures the beekeepers took as prevention against varroas were mostly of a chemical or biological kind, ranging from drug applications (organic or not), to chemical sprays and treatments.

Still they said that the preventions are not really enough. They prefer to use treatments such as Apivar, Bayvarol, Perizin and Checkmite+. However, the drugs used against varroa are imported and thus they are very expensive and difficult to acquire, beekeepers say. For instance the drug called APIGUARD is €28 and APILIFE is €40, which is quite expensive and difficult to reach for a beekeeper. Also the beekeepers complain about the drugs being inefficient.

Description of treatments

Treatment Disadvantages
  • Decrease of honey yield
  • Ruins in hive
  • Death of bees
  • Loss of the colony
  • Problems with bees development
Organic products
Amitraz (contains drugs and acids)
Essential oils: vetiver, lavander, thymol…
Perizin, Bayvarol, Varoset


To sum up, in both countries an important infestation of the beehives by Varroa destructor was reported, resulting in a critical danger for the colonies and economical damage for the beekeepers. The Turk beekeepers seem to be more affected on an economical level than French beekeepers, but they are unanimous on the fact that the preventive measures they can use are of a limited efficiency and that even the chemical treatments are sometimes not sufficient to eradicate the parasite.

It is clear from this survey in both countries that beekepers are in deep need of a solution that is more ecological and respectful of the bees.

TU Eindhoven team - Cloning guide

To help out future iGEM teams, the Eindhoven team decided to create a cloning guide where each current technique would be explained by an iGEM team. We chose to deal with the In-Fusion cloning technique because one of us, Alexandre, used this technique several times during a previous internship. Moreover, we used this technique to clone together genes used to express the light sensor for the circadian cycle.

You can find this cloning guide here, with our part at page 38:

Feel free to browse through the cloning guide.

CGU_Taiwan team - Survey created

This survey was first created by the Taiwanese team and integrated questions written by different teams. It was spread among many iGEM teams and it dealt with people vision of iGEM and of our project.

Here is the sample of questions corresponding to our project:


Numerous teams created surveys about their projects or other subjects and we answered those mentioned below:

iGEM Paris-Saclay Collaboration Survey Badge

  • Paris Saclay team
  • Nankai team
  • Aix-Marseille team
  • Pasteur team