The team of Vilnius University students (the first team ever from the Baltic countries) represented Lithuania in the prestigious synthetic biology competition iGEM (Eng. International Genetically Engineered Machine competition) in Boston in September. The debut of the Lithuanian team was an absolute success – they received the golden award for the bacterial system ColiClock.
The goal of the team was to tackle one of the biggest problems of Synthetic Biology – the regulation of the spread of GMOs in the environment. The aim of the ColiClock project consists of creating a bacterium with an integrated “count-down timer” triggering a self-destruction mechanism. The idea would apply to cells that need to have a limited lifetime outside of a laboratory environment. The mechanism is achieved using the type I-F CRISPR-Cas system, controlled by LuxR and cl, that is navigated to important genes in the genomic DNA. In addition, the students aim to present and discuss this globally relevant topic with Lithuanian industries, policy makers and the society.
Young Lithuanian researchers (guided by Virginijus Šikšnys, the professor of the VU Institute of Biotechnology) were excited about the fact that they were nominated for the award alongside the traditionally strong teams from Harvard, Heidelberg University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
During 27-28 September, about 2700 attendees, 259 teams from all over the world participated in the largest synthetic biology event to date. These high school and college students worked all summer long to tackle today's toughest problems using biology and engineering.
The iGEM Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and competition, advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of open community and collaboration. The iGEM Foundation inspires future synthetic biologists by hosting student-led teams in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition.