iGEM UK MeetUp

The 2015 Westminster iGEM team made a decision to host the official UK meet-up when it was noted that UCL, who have organized it in the past, were not arranging it this year. However, we did not fully appreciate the work involved in organizing such an event. There were people to invite, venues to secure, guest speakers to find, and finally our own results to finish and compile before the meet-up. Paulina, one member of our team, contacted iGEM to enquire about the potential of Westminster arranging such a meet-up. Once we had agreed on the dates, iGEM was notified, and the 2015 UK iGEM meet-up event planning commenced.

The Westminster iGEM ELECTROCOLI friendly neighbourhood hosts!
The UK meet-up was a fantastic platform for all the UK teams to network, familiarise themselves with other iGEM projects and build professional relationships. It also provided an opportunity for all the UK teams to gauge the standard of work that is expected of each team attending the iGEM Jamboree

The team had also invited some exciting guest speakers to present over the course of the two days.
On Friday, we had Dr. Paul James from University of Exeter and Dr. Paul Freemont from Imperial College London.
On Saturday, we had three guest speakers- James Phillips from Synbiota, Edward Perello from Desktop Genetics and finally Sean Ward from Synthace.
Each speaker was inspiring, memorable and enthusiastic. A range of topics were covered by the guests speakers that raised a lot of questions during and after the presentations. Teams were informed of the current developments in statistical and laboratory technologies, and were able to seek advice from the guest speakers regarding their own projects.

We provided everyone with food and refreshments throughout the event. Being a very culturally diverse team, we decided to bring a bit of spice to the UK meet up with an array of home cooked dishes such as samosas and pkoras. Coscto proved to be a beacon of light for our team who were on a strict budget. At the end this dining experience was our very own iGEM inspired cake. All in all, the catering was a success.

Day 1 of the UK meet up proved that you can only prepare so much. The teams arrived earlier than expected, catering was being manually carried across a busy main road and who can forget the misspelling of our team T-shirts.

The official UK iGEM meet-up was opened by Dr Mark Odell who gave a witty and warm welcome to all the teams in order to get the event underway. This was followed by a couple of brief words by Dr. Robert Scott, as seen in the image below.

September 4th, Day 1
Teams Presenting:
1. Dundee University Team

Team Dundee aims to create a forensic toolkit which includes detectors that stick to certain bodily fluids and have also devised a method to age fingerprints. More information can be found in through this link:

2. Exeter University Team

Team Exeter is aiming to create a Bovine TB test with an innovative toehold switch. The RNA-based test aims to overcome the problem of interfering with the BCG vaccine. More information can be found in through this link:

3. Edinburgh University Team

Team Edinburgh aim to reduce drug related harm by creating a cell-free biosensor, which can provide a semiquantitative analysis of the purity of heroin and can test for contamination within MDMA and diet pills. More information can be found in through this link:

4. Cambridge University Team

Team Cambridge is creating a relatively moderately priced microscope with 3D printing capabilities. The microscope will allow manipulation of features to tailor it to your needs. More information can be found in through this link:

5. University of Westminster Team

Team Westminster (hosts) is working on Microbial Fuel Cell.

6. Oxford University Team

Team Oxford is creating an alternative to tackle the problematic bacterial biofilms. They intend to engineer bacteria into living therapeutics. More information can be found in through this link:

Mingle Time!!!

September 5th, Day 2
Teams Presenting:
1. University of Kent Team

Team Kent is trying to overcome the current limitations of nanowires by creating amyloid nanowires, which are environmentally friendly and self-assembling. More information can be found in through this link:

2. University of Leicester Team

Team Leicester is trying to address certain proximate aging symptoms by introducing a yet to be determined E.coli strain (producing NAD+) into the human gut microbiome in an attempt to create a self-sustaining integrating pharmacy.
More information can be found in through this link:

3. Glasgow University Team

Team Glasgow is creating nightlights for children using bioluminescence as a light source in E.coli. More information can be found in through this link:

4. Norwich (University of East Anglia) Team

Team Norwich is working towards increasing the intake of butyrate, which specific bacteria are able to digest, in order to reduce the risk of colon cancer. For further information on their project follow the link:

5. Warwick University Team

The Warwick Team have developed their project, called Brixells, based on a method of cell-cell binding using zinc fingers as an example. Further information can be found on their wiki:

6. Reading University Team

Team Reading have been working on producing a biological photovoltaic (BPV) which is a photosynthetic microbial fuel cell. To find out more, follow the link:

7. University of York Team

Team York have been working towards producing a synthetic organism which is capable of reducing eutrophication in wastewater and in doing so recycle the phosphate. For further information on York’s project, follow the link:

8. Biohackers Team

Team Biohackspace are working towards producing home brewing kit using genetically modified yeasts to improve flavour and enhance characteristics not found in beer. To find out more about their project follow the link:

9. UCL Team

Mind the Gut is the title of Team UCL’s project and is based upon the understanding that the microbes in our digestive tract are important in our overall mental health. Follow the link for further information about Mind the Gut:

10. Birkbeck University Team

Team Birkbeck are developing a diagnostic tool using a genetically engineered virus- lambda- in order to detect and treat diseases such as tuberculosis. To follow the Owligos, and find out more about their project click on the link:

Hira - Your time is up!!!

Team Westminster member - Hira was responsible for keeping the time of each presentation - just like during the main Jamboree - 20min!

Edward Perello from Desktop Genetics

CEO of desktop genetics gave a very inspiring speech about his company how it works and how we can contribute to it. Furthermore he spoke about the importance of iGEM , future of synthetic biology and the ideas that can be developed from iGEM projects. Moreover he briefly discussed CRISPS overall a very enthusiastic presentation and very engaging with the audience.

Sean Ward from Synthace

Sean Ward is the founder and chief engineer at Synthace , that focuses on the bio-manufacturing of high value proteins and speciality chemicals. He spoke about Synthace and the future of automated laboratory techniques.

James Phillips from Synbiota

James Phillips is a representative from Synbiota, and gave a very informative presentation about RDP technique. He described this novel technique as well as other techniques available including 3a-assembly, golden gate and bio brick assembly. Discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques as well as informing us of the technologies available to each team.

Dr Paul James from University of Exeter

Dr Paul James gave an insightful presentation on his research on Biofuels. Seeing the development and accomplishment of University of York and their iGEM teams was fascinating to say the least. He demonstrated how synthetic biology is being used to solve the fuel crisis, by creating petroleum fuel molecules.

Dr Paul Freemont from Imperial College London

Dr Paul Freemont presentation evoked passion and enthusiasm within the audience. Asking thought-provoking philosophical questions helped the iGEMers see the wider potential of synthetic biology and the obstacles that come with it. It is important to have an equilibrium with ethics and genetic engineering.

We would like to thank all the UK teams for attending this event. Your support, enthusiasm and willingness to share ideas and information, has made this event something that our team can be very proud of. You gave us a new boost of energy!

Wish you all the best of luck!

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