The Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM team of students from Vilnius University (VU) took part in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition held in Paris on 4-14 November, and once again gained worldwide recognition by winning a gold medal. The team was nominated for 12 additional prizes, and won two of them – for the best measurement and educational activities.
This year’s Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM 2021 team project AmeBye was designed to help prevent the spread of infectious amoebiasis. This is an infectious intestinal disease caused by the protozoan E. histolytica, which is transmitted via contaminated food, water and poor hygiene. The infection can sometimes progress to a systemic condition, spreading to other organs. The team spokesperson said the team chose this topic in relation to the global context: “The pandemic, which has now been going on for multiple years, has demonstrated how a health issue in another part of the world can easily become global. This is strongly influenced by changes in the climate and ecosystem, and by people’s increased susceptibility to infections.”
Throughout the competition cycle, the young scientists developed naringenin-synthesising probiotics for the prevention of infections, as well as a diagnostic test. The probiotics could prevent the amoebiasis from progressing to a systemic infection, while the test has the potential to replace the expensive, specialised equipment currently used to detect amoebiasis.
“These tools could also contribute to one of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. The team’s contribution to achieving this goal relates to the sub-goal of preventing tropical disease epidemics by 2030,” said the Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM 2021 team representative.
iGEM is an annual international academic competition designed to promote the advancement of synthetic biology. Interdisciplinary teams of university students are invited to solve global problems in medicine, the food industry, energy and other relevant fields.
Lithuanian teams have been participating in the iGEM competition since 2015, and are known for delivering impressive projects in a global context. Our young scientists have won gold medals every year, as well as being nominated for special awards, and have even won the Grand Prize for the best project twice – in 2017 and 2020.