Virginia Tech's iGEM team made a successful first appearance at the 2007 national iGEM competition in Boston, Mass., Nov. 3-4 and received a gold medal from competition judges for their efforts.

The two-day competition included oral presentations by each participating team as well as poster presentations. Teams were awarded bronze, silver, or gold medals by the judges who looked in detail at the quality of the presentations, a wiki or web-based description of the project, and BioBricks documented in the competition’s Registry of Standard Biological Parts.

BioBricks are the standard interchangeable biological parts used by the participants in the annual iGEM competition to produce systems that work as molecules inside living organisms. The judges awarded the Virginia Tech team a gold medal in recognition of the work performed to sequence all of the BioBricks in the iGEM Registry. Having these sequences available will be very useful for future iGEM teams.

“In addition to the work by Virginia Tech’s iGEM team, sequencing the registry required the contributions of many people in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Core Laboratory Facility, Core Computational Facility, Cyberinfrastructure Group, and Synthetic Biology Group,” said Jean Peccoud, an associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. “This is an excellent example of the project-oriented and collaborative approach to biological research for which VBI is known. All contributors worked very hard to release the first set of data in time for the iGEM Jamboree.”

Peccoud served as the leader of the Virginia Tech team along with Bill Baumann, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.

The Virginia Tech team’s primary project involved engineering disease epidemics using Escherichia coli and bacteriophage lambda as a model population. They examined the development of an epidemic within and between populations, creating a population interaction model that predicts the spread of infection between groups of people. The team designed a network for the spread of infection and created models, which they verified experimentally.

According to team member Blair Lyons of Marietta, Ga., a freshman majoring in general engineering in the College of Engineering and biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, “Being a part of Virginia Tech’s first ever iGEM team has been an invaluable experience. Not only did we gain research and laboratory experience, but we learned how to combine mathematical modeling, engineering methods, and genetic engineering tools that could one day have an impact on human health.”

Bruno Sobral, executive and scientific director of VBI, said: “We have worked closely with the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering and Science at Virginia Tech in putting together this year’s iGEM team. I believe the success of the team reflects the willingness of the participants to engage in transdisciplinary research that supports innovation.” He added: “The iGEM competition is a great educational and training opportunity for the next generation of team-based scientists.”

Third Security, LLC, sponsored the Virginia Tech iGEM team.

About iGEM
The iGEM competition tests the idea that biological engineering can be performed more reproducibly through the use of standardized parts. iGEM hopes to discover creative new approaches to designing and building engineered biological systems while encouraging the development of collaborations and sharing of information and experiences.

Share this story