University of Dundee

Dundee iGEM team and local school pupils take home gold at world jamboree

04 Nov 2016

A team of students from the University of Dundee and local school pupils have both won gold medals at this year’s iGEM Jamboree in Boston, USA.

The students, from across the University, achieved the gold for their work to try and combat antimicrobial resistance in livestock. They noticed that the overuse of antibiotics, particularly in the poultry and pig farming industries, was causing problems.

Instead of using conventional antibiotics, the students came up with idea to engineer a toxic protein to kill the pathogenic strains of bacteria that infect livestock. They planned to develop a new chicken feed coating that would maintain infections at a low level.

The University students were also joined in America by local school pupils from St Paul’s Academy and Grove Academy. Scotland’s first ever high school iGEM team came up with the idea of creating a system to help prevent Cholera and Shigellosis, diseases of contaminated drinking water, from spreading in the developing world. By interfering with RNA processes they inhibited the target bacterium and stopped it from working, which should render it harmless.

Professor Tracy Palmer, who worked with both teams, said, “This is a fantastic achievement by our University iGEM team and our Dundee Schools iGEM team. They have done exceptionally well and we could not be more proud.

“The fact that both teams developed an idea to help solve two of the world’s major problems is fantastic and builds on a great run of success we have had at iGEM.

“They have impressed all of us with their imagination, dedication and discipline and it was great to see the impact they had on the iGEM judges and fellow competitors.”

Dundee City Council’s Children and Families Service Convener Councillor Stewart Hunter said, "This is a fantastic achievement for our young people and an experience that they will never forget. I am so proud of them.

"This highlights the excellent work that is ongoing in our schools and how strong partnerships with the University of Dundee are benefiting our pupils."

iGEM – the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition – takes place in Boston every year and asks students to tackle a real world problem by designing and building a new device or system from a kit of biological parts.