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Bielefeld iGEM Team awarded Gold Medal

Published 7. November 2016, 10:37 h
Students entered international competition in Boston 

Eleven Bielefeld University students have developed a system that could, for example, be used against viruses like Zika. They recently (27-31 October 2016) showcased their project at the finals of the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) in Boston, USA. The team was awarded a gold medal for realising their project “Evobodies – molecular speed dating” and nominated for a further prize. All in all, around 300 teams from all over the world took place.

Das Bielefelder iGEM-Team in Boston (hintere Reihe v.l.): Marius Schöller, Judith Kampa, Fa-bian Roeloffs, Sebastian Perez Knoche, Niklas Hoffmann, Carsten Hain, Pascal Schmidt, Bianca Frommer, Boas Pucker; (vordere Reihe v.l.) Mikail Sahin, Marten Linder, Cassandra Königs und Julian Droste. Foto: Universität Bielefeld/CeBiTec
The Bielefeld iGEM team in Boston (back row from left): Marius Schöller, Judith Kampa, Fabian Roeloffs, Sebastian Perez Knoche, Niklas Hoffmann, Carsten Hain, Pascal Schmidt, Bianca Frommer, Boas Pucker; (front row from left) Mikail Sahin, Marten Linder, Cassandra Königs and Julian Droste. Photo: Bielefeld University/CeBiTec
Only 4 of the in total 13 German teams managed to win gold. Teams are awarded gold if in addition to all the criteria for bronze and silver they also meet at least two of the gold medal criteria. These include, for example, dialogue with the general public and with experts or the improvement of part of a previous project. The Bielefeld students were also nominated for the prize in the category Best New Composite Part.

The Bielefeld iGEM team had developed a system with which it can generate binding proteins in bacteria. These could, for example, be used to counter viruses such as Zika. The students call them “evobodies”. The name “evobody” is a combination of the terms “evolution” and “antibody”. The term “evolution” was chosen because a specially developed evolution mechanism allows those bacteria to grow particularly well that generate binding evobodies against a previously selected target protein. The DNA sequence of the bacteria that prevail can be determined and hence the blueprint for the binding evobody ascertained. The term “antibody”, on the other hand, refers to the functional similarity of the evobodies to antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that occur naturally in the human body and which bind pathogens and help to fight them. In industry, they are often harvested from animals; and in science and medicine, they are used for diagnosis and treatment. “No laboratory animals are needed for evobodies, which is not the case with conventional antibodies,” explains team member Bianca Frommer. “What is more, the complete process occurs on its own in the bacteria and doesn’t require a lot of working time to be invested.”

There was also lots to do outside the laboratory; this included the students’ presenting their project to school classes and drawing up a project description in dialogue with the pupils. Business plans, raising sponsorship money, contact with the general public and press as well as documenting the project in the internet are all part of this. Moreover, for the first time this year’s team managed to secure financial support through crowdfunding. “iGEM was a great opportunity for us to plan our own project from beginning to end and carry it out,” says team member Niklas Hoffmann. “I’m glad everything went well and now hope to have a relaxing short vacation in the USA.”

The team comprises master and bachelor students of Biochemistry, Molecular Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Genome Research as well as Genome Based Systems Biology. The students joined forces at the beginning of the year to develop a project for their participation in the iGEM competition. The team’s advisors are Professor Dr. Jörn Kalinowski and Professor Dr. Kristian Müller as well as Boas Pucker and Julian Droste.

iGEM is a competition in the field of synthetic biology in Boston, USA. The Bielefeld team came up against competition there from universities all over the world. About 300 teams took part in the competition in its twelfth year. Bielefeld University has been represented at iGEM since 2010 and has managed to win the title of First Runner Up, numerous special prizes as well as a gold medal every year.

Internet links:
Wiki: 2016.igem.org/Team:Bielefeld-CeBiTec
Startnext: www.startnext.com/en/evobodies
Website: www.igem-bielefeld.de
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iGEM_Bielefeld
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/iGEM_Bielefeld/244094752286371?sk=wall
ResearchGate: www.researchgate.net/project/Evobodies-molecular-speed-dating-in-vivo-mutagenesis-of-binding-proteins

Further information is available online at:

http://ekvv.uni-bielefeld.de/blog/uninews/entry/bielefeld_students_working_on_a

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