IISc. undergraduates win gold at iGEM 2017

300 international teams were in fray

Updated - November 18, 2017 08:38 am IST

Published - November 16, 2017 11:18 pm IST - Bengaluru

With a new device to measure the growth of microbes as well as a novel method to purify proteins, a team of undergraduates from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) took home the gold medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition held in Boston, U.S., from November 9 to 13.

The team triumphed over 300 others from around the world. The competition encourages students to build genetically-engineered biological systems.

The six-member core team from IISc. developed a new method to purify recombinant proteins — that is a protein enclosed in a gene — by using naturally-occurring gas vesicles isolated from Halobacterial species of bacteria, which thrives in salt-rich environments.

In liquids, gas vesicles help bacteria float to the surface, and using biotechnology and gene cloning, the team was able to purify protein by tagging them to these vesicles.

Similarly, the team designed a device, Growth Curve and Optical Density Device, to ascertain microbial growth through real-time optical density measurements that can even be read through a smartphone.

The device, said IISc., is less than a fourth of the price of a commercially-available spectrophotometer.

The team comprising Raj Magesh, Sai Padma Priya, Kunal Helambe, Rajas Poorna, Sharath K. Menon and Rohith K.M.S. worked on the projects for over six months.

They were mentored by Dipshikha Chakravortty, Utpal Nath from Department of Microbiology & Cell Biology, and Akshay Datey from Biosystems Science & Engineering at IISc.

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