TU/e team wins Best Innovation in Measurement iGEM29 September 2015
Yesterday, TU/e’s iGEM team has won the Best Innovation in Measurement Special Prize at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, US. The Eindhoven student team beat some two hundred undergraduate teams. It was also nominated in the categories Best New Application and Best Education & Public Engagement. The team developed a biosensor based on proteins, which they inserted into the E. coli bacterium.
The Eindhoven iGEM project, Clickable Outer Membrane Biosensors, elaborates on the successful project of last year’s team. The basis of the biosensor is created by the specific proteins that are inserted into the outer membrane – the skin – of the E. coli bacterium. These proteins enable all kinds of molecules to be attached to them depending on what they should be used for. Last year’s team wanted to use the proteins to protect the bacterium from external influences, but this year’s team decided to attach so-called aptamers (pieces of DNA) to the bacterium. Team member Kwankwan Zhu: “They’re feelers of sorts, and they can be used to detect certain chemicals.”
One example of a chemical the biosensor can detect is a Q fever antibody. How it works: luminous proteins are attached to the inside of the cell. As soon as the aptamers bind to the antibodies, the proteins light up or change color. It’s an easy way to determine whether the goat in question is still Q-fever resistant, or if it should be vaccinated again.
Although the students didn’t manage to develop a working sensor, they have been able to prove that they incorporated essential elements into the bacterium, including the aptamers and luminous proteins. “That’s quite the achievement in itself”, says Professor Maarten Merkx, who accompanied the team to Boston as their supervisor. “They’ve conducted actual scientific research, and it’s very rare an iGEM team realizes their goal anyway.”
The quality of education seems to have slipped at TU/e. In the latest Dutch-language guide to universities (Keuzegids Universiteiten), Eindhoven's university has dropped from third place in the overall ranking to seventh place in the course of a year. "It's understandable but it's not good," says President of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers, "and it is all the more reason to push on with introducing an upper limit on student intake to our programs. This is a result of the strong growth in student numbers."
Eindhoven's iGEM team has arrived in Boston. In the coming days, the students will participate in the Giant Jamboree, competing with nearly three hundred teams from all over the world. Their competition entry is their project GUPPI, in which they propose encapsulating tumors in a gel to prevent them growing and spreading.
As well as professors, from now on associate professors (UHD-1) at TU/e may also confer doctoral degrees on PhD candidates. Sixty associate professors were awarded the right to confer doctoral degrees at the start of this academic year after the move was approved by the Upper House of Parliament in the Netherlands shortly before the summer recess. “We couldn't wait to introduce this here.”
Before you google yet another one of my invented diseases and subsequently begin to question the title of this story, let me tell you this. With a new academic year having begun and a shiny new batch of freshmen accompanying it, the university is full of people suffering from the so-called octopus syndrome.