Campus Life

Lethbridge iGEM teams hit the ground running

The University of Lethbridge iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) teams are once again demonstrating their innovative spirit.

The collegiate team is attempting an ambitious project inspired by the works of Banting and Best, the researchers who were the first to extract and administer insulin in 1922, later selling their patent to the University of Toronto for a dollar.

Magda Pop and Callista Rothwell (GeekStarter); iGEM team members Luke Saville, Sydnee Calhoun, Kristi Turton, Dia Michailidou-Koupantsis and Chris Isaac.

Now, almost a century later, diabetes mellitus affects approximately eight per cent of the global population and the price of insulin is soaring. The collegiate team aims to democratize insulin production as an oral alternative in recombinant microalgae. Their project designs have already been validated by GeekStarter, who awarded them $2,000 for demonstrating the think-design-test cycle for lean start-ups. Additionally, they were also one of 10 teams at iGEM to receive an Opentrons OT-2 Pipetting robot (value $10,000) that they will use to improve their measurement standards. They hope to continue their success throughout the season as they demonstrate their project’s value through various wet-lab experiments and participation in the 2019 iGEM Jamboree.

Shada Aborawi, Linda He, Mina Akbary-Zheng, Karen He, Aroma Pageni, Rebecca Avileli, Dewuni De Silva, Michelle Wu, Elisha Wong, David Basil, Thomas Byrne, Katie Vienneau, Mark Lea, Rachel Avileli, Natasha Woitte (missing Julien Todd, Alice Zhang & Andy Sun).
Meanwhile, the Lethbridge High School team presented its project as part of the GeekStarter 2019 High School Jamboree, hosted by Our Lady of the Snow Catholic Academy in Canmore. Teams from Lacombe, Fort McMurray, Calgary, Edmonton, and Canmore also competed. Team members Shada Aborawi, Rachel Avileli, Thomas Byrne, and Elisha Wong, all first year iGEM participants, made their team proud during the presentation. Judges agreed and awarded the Lethbridge team the Best Potential Impact award.

The high school iGEM team’s project will utilize synthetic biology to help fight the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The team aims to develop a rapid diagnostic device to help identify bacterial pathogens, resulting in more specific antibiotic prescriptions. The team will also design a therapeutic that can be used against bacterial infections. More project information will be available in their forthcoming BioTrekspaper.

“I love the interdisciplinary aspect of iGEM,” says Linda He, a Chinook High School Grade 10 student. “I get to learn wet lab skills, coding skills, and marketing skills but I also get to talk to people in our community, experts in the field and work as a team.”

The team is made up of students from Winston Churchill High School, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, Chinook High School and Catholic Central High School.