27 June 2013
Hong Kong-CUHK iGEM Team 2013 Synthetic Biology Talk
A genetic engineering team formed by 14 undergraduate students of science and engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has won a silver medal at the iGEM (international Genetic Engineered Machine) Asia Regional Jamboree. They also won the Best New BioBrick Part or Device (Engineered) Award and were qualified to compete for the world championship with over 50 elite teams in the iGEM World Jamboree to be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in November.
The 2013 iGEM Asian Jamboree was held on the CUHK campus during the last weekend (October 4-6). A total of 65 teams from different universities in over 20 Asian nations or regions joined the competition, among which only 19 teams can compete for the world championship. Officiating at the opening ceremony, Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK expressed his appreciation to all participating students who showed their innovative ideas and dedications in carrying out the experiments. The students were required to use genetic engineering and synthetic biology approaches to design new strains of bacteria which can produce new materials to solve problems associated with sustainable development, food and energy crises, and to improve medical technologies.
The winning project of the CUHK team was named 'Switch Off PAHs'. They have designed a voltage switch to control the enzymatic reactions of bacteria so that they can degrade poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) more effectively, such as benzo-a-pyrene (BaP), a common environmental pollutant and a well-known carcinogen. This innovative technology may be useful in improving air quality and public health. Over the past five months, the CUHK team had been devoted to developing the project from scratch with great team spirit, from defining themes and experiments to developing new parts, models and biobricks. They have also published a wiki page, produced posters and introduced the project and the new devices on public occasions.
About iGEM Competition
iGEM is an annual premier synthetic biology competition worldwide for high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students. It was established by the MIT in 2004 to foster students' learning in synthetic biology, promote collaboration among students and nurture biology talents. Participating teams are required to specify, design, build, and test simple biological systems made from standard, interchangeable biological parts. The accomplishments of these student teams often lead to important advances in medicine, energy, and the environment. For more information, please visit http://www.igem.org.
中大隊伍的參賽項目名為「去掉多環芳香族碳氫化合物 (PAHs)」，他們利用電流刺激來加強不同細菌酵素的連繫，更有效地用細菌分解 PAHs, 例如苯丙芘（常見的環境污染物和致癌物質）。此項嶄新技術可望應用於改善空氣質素及人類健康。中大隊自今年五月起積極籌備比賽，由訂定題目、設計實驗，到創造生物零件及模型等，皆完全由學生自行構思。隊員分工合作，盡顯團結精神，還發表了維基網頁、印製海報，並在公開演說中介紹其構思的課題及創作的新零件。