UBC team wins Best Model award in regionals and heads to World iGEM championship

UBC's iGEM team

UBC's iGEM team

Students Negin Tousi, Michael Peters and Joel Kumlin, of UBC’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) and Civil Engineering Graduate Advisor Christopher Lawson (BASc ’10), will be attending the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) World Championship at MIT, in Boston, Massachusetts with the UBC iGEM team. The championship will take place November 1-4.

The team obtained their ticket to the iGEM World Championship by winning Best Mathematical Model and gold medal status at the North American Jamboree, the iGEM regional qualifier hosted this October in Toronto.

The annual iGEM competition challenges teams of undergraduate students from more than 250 different universities to build a biological system inside a living cell using a kit of standardized DNA sequences that can be combined and engineered for specific purposes.

UBC iGEM joined 55 teams from American and Canadian Universities in presenting their work at the North American Jamboree. Twenty-one teams advanced to the World Championship including the University of Pennsylvania, MIT, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.

UBC iGEM’s project builds upon research on the CRISPR system and would grant bacteria immunity against phages – viruses that attack bacteria. Immunization would provide significant economic advantages by cutting the costs borne by any industry that utilizes a microbial bioreactor. For example, 10% of the milk fermentations used in yogurt production have to be discarded due to phage contamination.

The team’s work and their projection of the cell culture levels of immunized bacteria qualified them for the World Championship and also granted them the Best Mathematical Model prize.

Additional team members and supervisors of UBC iGEM’s team members include Fisal Elstone, Liz Geum, Joe Ho, Dan Korvin, Anna Muller, Frances Russell, Cam Strachan, David VanInsberghe, Grace Yi and Tony Zhao. They are supervised by graduate advisors James Round, Ray Socha and Michael VanInsberghe and faculty advisors Joanne Fox and Steven Hallam.

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UBC, along with other departments and external sponsors, will provide funding for the team’s trip to Boston. However, UBC iGEM is still in need of funds to reach their $25,000 goal in order to cover the trip’s expenses.