As a high school team with relatively little support from higher education institutions and professors, it was important that we find a university team with experience to help us out along the way.
In the beginning of the iGEM season, we reached out to KCL, another London based team with a campus dotted around our school, to ask if they would be interested in collaboration. We organised a call, and they agreed to form a partnership. At first, they were instrumental in answering questions about different aspects of the project, such as the best amplification methods for our plasmids, and the best ways to conduct surveys, while remaining ethical (read more about these on our human practices page ).
We discussed issues such as our lack of a plate reader and -80*C freezer which were needed for characterisation of our toehold switches, and storage of our cell free kits and competent cells respectively. They agreed to share there ultra low freezer with us, and we regularly paid visits to take out cells and cell free kits for the wet lab. Regarding the plate reader, the KCL team got us in touch with their sponsor, BMG Labtech, who kindly agreed to lend us their plate reader, so we ended up completely all our toehold switch characterisation lab work in KCL’s labs.
Despite being relatively inexperienced in the competition, and synthetic biology in general, compared to the postgraduate and undergraduate team, we were keen from the offset to help KCL out in any way we could. So, when they mentioned their Biologix competition, we leaped at the opportunity to help out by reaching out to our instructors who, as teachers of the target audience of the competition, were able to provide them with invaluable feedback. Furthermore, as we were in the age range of their target audience ourselves, we were able to advertise the competition to our classmates at school, and participate in what turned out to be a great course and competition. The winning submission is above, and came from a student on our team.
Throughout the year, we were able to bounce ideas off the team, and their PI, Dr Anatoliy Markiv, and our collaboration with them was instrumental for our success.
We worked with Team NYU New York, whose project was to make a cell-free system for toehold switches detecting influenza. They used our software package ToeholdTools as part of their project design and gave feedback about it’s architecture. For example, one update we added after speaking with them was to add support for Pandas dataframes, which facilitates further data processing. They commented on how easy to use our library is and appreciated the well-formatted documentation, especially regarding the quick-start walkthrough example.