Being the first team from our institute and Kerala, not many people were aware of the iGEM competition. The team's effort was instrumental in introducing iGEM within our institution. We have, so far, had no courses on iGEM or synthetic biology. The idea to take part in iGEM bloomed when a group of enthusiastic students came forward with a project proposal.
The initial brainstorming and quest to learn more about iGEM began in August 2020. Leaning about its various sections, requirements, and medal criteria were the baby steps. Eventually, more team members joined and various ideas were discussed upon. We finally decided on the project, now named “MOLDEMORT” during December 2020. The project has seen many changes as we went by.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the team could start their initial work of identifying the fungus in the campus premises only by February 2021. We have been trained to handle fungus since then by our advisor.
The lab work for the project started in the month of May with the team members getting trained to carry out the experiments properly, analyze the data, and do necessary troubleshoots.
We successfully designed 4 different recombinant chitinases, out of which one chitinase was successfully cloned and expressed. Adding to the achievement, we were able to establish the antifungal activity of our purified protein. We also performed a comparative antifungal study between our chimeric chitinase and the wild type.
We spread the word of Synthetic Biology to the community through various fun and engaging games and talk series as well as courses for students. With respect to our project, we spread awareness to the local public about fungi and their pernicious nature.
Each member improved their teamwork skills as well as raised their standards to an international level.
We hereby acknowledge help from the following individuals and organisations for making this project a success.
Principle Investigators (PIs):
Ravi Maruthchalam, Assistant Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram.
The entire team expresses their heartiest gratitude to him for guiding us through the journey of iGEM, guiding us through the construction of the parts, primers, reviewing our work and helping in troubleshooting, helping out in administering the project, providing us lab space to work and constant motivation to do our best.
Prof. S. Murty Srinivasula, Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram.
He is the former Registrar of the institution, who helped us get the approval to carry out the project from the Institution and IBSC (Institutional Biosafety Committee). Being a biologist himself, he guided us through some experimental protocols and looked up the constant updates of the project.
Tejas Sabu, Team leader
He had been involved in all wet-lab activities. He had been responsible for all the official documentation so that the project could run smoothly with all necessary approvals. He was a part of the organizing committee for AIIM (All India iGEM Meet), making it a great success.
Abhishek Raghunathan, Co-team lead
He had been a superlative spokesperson for the team. He had been primarily responsible for the design of the recombinant gene, and primers. He had trained the wet-lab team with various experiments and lab protocols. He is also working on a reasonable way of implementing our project with the help of an excellent volunteer team. He has taken utmost interest in teaching synthetic biology to school-going students.
She has responsibly taken care of the project’s sponsorship, ensuring that the team always has all the necessary reagents, apparatus, and other required materials for side-works. She had also been an active help in fungal identification experiments and wet-lab activities.
He had worked on in-silico modeling of the project, analyzing the efficiency of the engineered protein through docking results. He had also taken part in some wet-lab activities. He had also been a great help in designing our wiki.
He has been the prime member in designing recombinant chitinases, primers, and wet-lab activities. He had also demonstrated the protein-chitin interactions through Autodoc software. Active participation in Human Practice activities and improving an existing part for medal criteria are other attributes he holds.
He has explicitly been involved in the secretion of the protein of interest, SDS-PAGE, and its purification.
She has been involved in all wet-lab activities, organizing everyday lab work, and documenting results and conclusions. She had also stepped forward to lead the team in making a successful wiki, ensuring a duly completed judging form and a successful registry page for the parts designed by the team.
He has been mainly involved in the secretion of protein, SDS-PAGE, and protein purification. He has also been documenting the works done by the Human Practice and wet lab team.
She has responsibly looked after the safety of our team, ensuring all the parts and organisms receive prior approval for the project and helped in getting IBSC clearance. She is also an integral part of the project modelling team, contributing to both protein and math modelling; design, and experimentation for the same. She had also been a great help in designing our wiki
She had been an integral part of identifying the fungal species on the college campus. She is also responsible for wet-lab activities. Apart from biology, she took active participation in videography, photography for the promo video.
He has been primarily responsible for the project’s social media and Public Relations (PR). He had created art and design for the team and project logo, scripted, shot, and edited the promo video. He had been an excellent host for AIIM (All India iGEM Meet), many expert interactions, and webinars conducted by the team. He also played an integral role in designing and completing the team wiki.
She has spearheaded the Human Practices, Education, and Outreach team. She has also been working on the handbook in collaboration with the iGEM team IISER-Tirupati_India on Biotechnology laws and regulations in India. She had successfully conducted the “Synbio Conclave” being an integral step towards education and outreach. She had teamed up to conduct the “Dark side of Fungi” talk series, educating society about the menace of fungus around us.
He has been a prime member of the Human Practice, Education, and Outreach team, starting from organizing interactions with experts to conducting talk series, “Dark side of Fungi'', she had been leading. She has also been working on the handbook in collaboration with the iGEM team IISER-Tirupati_India on Biotechnology laws and regulations in India. Apart from these, she had also been helping with wet-lab activities and sponsorship.
She has been involved in all wet-lab activities. She had borne the responsibility to help the team win the Impact Grant and Beckman Coulter sponsorship. Making posters for the social media handles, being an extremely helpful hand for videography had been other endeavours that she had been a part of.
He has been the brains behind the math modelling of the project. He had put in his effort to design equations, design, and set up experiments specific to modelling, and taught himself to use various new software for simulations, curve fitting. He had taken a keen interest in carrying out assays with the purified protein and analyzing their activity mathematically.
He has been an advisor for the team, guiding the team to design the recombinant chitinases, primers, helping with the promo video, making detailed illustrations for presentation. He has also been helping the team with analyzing the wet-lab results, troubleshooting the experiments to name a few. He taught the team to document and present all the experiments and results properly.
He has mentored the team with the wet-lab activities, guided with the experiments and protocols, troubleshooting. He also helped in verifying the results and conclusions that were being documented. His guidance was crucial in setting up meaningful experiments with appropriate control and presenting the same.
Dr. Mohammed Aiyaz
Being a mycologist himself, has trained the team members to handle and work with fungus. He has guided through all the experiments for the identification of fungus in the campus buildings, analyses the protocols involving any use of fungi. The team expresses their gratitude to him for carrying out this project involving sporulating fungus, in a safe and secure manner.
Gourav Saha, BITS Goa
Being a past iGEMer himself has guided us through the crucial phase of iGEM. Mentoring the team with ideas, the rectification of any issue, or clarification of any doubt has been the greatest support that he had provided the team with.
- Media and Design
We thank the following 2 volunteers for making the AIIM, a grand success on behalf of the iGEM Team IISER_TVM.
- Nikitha Srinivas (B17): Designer of the project logo for Moldemort, designer, and host (as Dungeon Master) for the game of Dungeons and Dragons conducted by iGEM IISER_TVM as a part of AIIM.
- Hemamshu Ratnakaram (B17): Designer and moderator of the game of Dungeons and Dragons conducted by iGEM IISER_TVM as a part of AIIM.
- Outreach and Education
We highly appreciate the following mentioned volunteers who have supported the team to make the project more accessible to people, especially, school-going students. They put in their creation to publish 2 knowledgeable and insightful books.
- Anagha Muraleedharan (B20): Editor, Synbio book for Kids
- Simarpreet Kaur (B20): Content Creator, Synbio book for Kids
- Jayasurya R. Krishna (B20): Illustrator, Synbio book for Kids, Poster making
- Ahsana Aman (B20): Content Creator, Fungus book
- Adam Zacharia Anil (B20): Illustrator, Synbio book for Kids, Poster making, Data analysis
- Gayathri S. Kumar (B20): Illustrator, Synbio book for Kids
- Gayatri Kandpal (iPhD20): Illustrator, Fungus book
- Dheeraj Chandravarkar (B17): e-certificate design
- Proposed Implementation
We thank this team of the following mentioned volunteers for looking into every aspect possible to implement our designed protein as a marketed product that could be used to cure IFIs.They have done an extensive literature review to propose an efficient method of implementation of the recombinant chitinases.
- Akshay Unni (B20): Clinical trials
- Harshini S. (B20): Pre-clinical trials
- Sivarenjini S. (B20): An overview, Future directions
- Jacob G. Kurian (B20): Nanoencapsulation, Data analysis
- Teja Kumar (B18): Clinical trials
- Ritobrato Chatterjee (iPhD20) helped the team in designing the wiki sections.
- Nikhil U S (IISER TVM Alumni): We are grateful to him for redesigning the entire wiki, polishing it and aesthetically improving the overall appearance.
PhD, Post Doc., TA:
We express our heartfelt gratitude to all the people mentioned below for all the help and support. They have trained us with lab work, handling equipment, troubleshooting the bugs in experiments. Their constant support and motivation have boosted our dedication and allowed us to achieve success in our project.
Nithya Rani N. M., Technical Assistant, SoB, IISER TVM, She has always been a constant support for our project. She played a significant role in bringing us up to the current level. She taught us all the lab activities from scratch.
Lincy Varghese, Junior Technical Assistant, SoB, IISER TVM, She has been helping the team in getting the necessary reagents and setting up instruments for the lab. She played an essential role in sequencing the fungal genomic DNA to identify the fungal species inside the campus. She also played a significant role in teaching us the basic lab techniques.
Jijith S. S., Technical Staff, SoB, IISER TVM, He has been helping the team handle various instruments, including the SEM imaging of fungal spores and culture.
Sarika Mohan S., Junior Technical Assistant, SoB, IISER TVM, She has helped the team order the required lab reagents.
Ramesh Bondada M. N., from MR LAB, He has been a constant support to our team and helped the wet-lab team in various experiments as well as using different instruments, including imaging. He has also supported the sponsorship team by providing the contact details of multiple companies, particularly those supplying reagents inside our campus.
Vaishak K. P., a PhD student at MR LAB He has been extremely supportive and helpful for most of the wet-lab activities of the team. He played a major role in teaching us the steps of cloning, as well as RNA extraction and cDNA synthesis.
Anu P. V., a PhD student at SK LAB He taught the wet-lab members the various steps of sequencing as well as helped the team in planning cloning. He has always been there to support us morally and his suggestions for troubleshooting were valuable for the team.
Vijina V. P., a PhD student at MGPB LAB She has been continuously helping the team in various wet-lab activities and the use of different instruments. She taught us sonication and has also helped in troubleshooting various experiments.
Anju P. S., a PhD student at MGPB LAB She has been helping the team in setting up various instruments as well as imaging the samples.
Renjith M. R., a Ph.D. student from TKM LAB He has been a great support for the team in purifying our protein using the Ni-NTA column and has also been helping the team in troubleshooting our experiments.
Swarnendu Mukhopadhyay, a Ph.D. student from TKM LAB He has been guiding the team in wet-lab activities, particularly protein purification using Urea dialysis.
Siddharth Shivanandan, a fifth-year Bio major student working on his major project at MR LAB, He helped the team in the in-silico modelling of protein and has been giving guidance in various wet-lab activities.
Jeswin Joseph, who is currently pursuing his PhD in the VSR lab at IISER TVM, He has been guiding the team in cloning and troubleshooting the experiments. He had been helping to analyze our protocols and results. He has been a great help to the wet-lab team. We express our immense gratitude towards him for his support and guidance.
Monica P., currently pursuing her PhD in NSMB Lab She has constantly helped the team to troubleshoot the problems that arose while purifying the proteins of our interest and standardizing the methods. She also helped in planning various controlled assays for the characterization of our protein.
We express our heartfelt gratitude to Lekshmi Thampi, Technical Assistant, SoB, IISER TVM, and Lekshmi C., Junior Technical Assistant, SoB, IISER TVM for helping us in various lab activities and helping us in acquiring the necessary reagents.
We thank each and every person from MR LAB for letting us work space and helping us in setting up instruments and acquiring various reagents. We hereby acknowledge Dilsher Singh Kulaar, Tejas T. M., Mohit Pradip Rajabhoj, Krishnapriya Anirudhan, Allipra Sreejith, Mohammed Afsal B. from MR LAB for the immense support.
We also thank Anjali Variyar and Varun Sunder, Ph.D. students from the Mutation lab, and Amamah Farzlin Farnaz, PhD from GSL LAB who guided the modelling team in using different instruments as well as the wet-lab team in cloning.
Raji Krishna and Mabel Maria Mathew, PhD students from MGPB LAB were supportive throughout the project and taught us various wet-lab techniques.
Human Practice Attributions
- Expert interactions
The team is indebted to these personalities for their valuable insights into the project. Their guidance and expert advice helped us in better understanding the problem we are trying to solve, the feasibility of the project, the desired pathway to get results, to name a few.
- Prof. M.R.N. Murthy: Retired Professor, IISc Bangalore
- H.S. Savitri: Retired Professor, IISc Bangalore
- Prof. J.N.Moorthy: Honorable Director, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Dr. Robin Allshire: Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Chromosome Biology at the University of Edinburgh
- Dr. Rachit Agarwal: Assistant Professor, IISc Bengaluru
- Dr. Ravindra Ghooi: Director, Scientia Clinical Services
- Dr. Hariprasad P: Associate Professor, at the Centre for Rural Development and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
- Dr. Prashant Gupta: Post-doc, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
- Dr. Subha C. C.: Assistant Professor, Department of Law, Christ University, Delhi NCR Campus, New Delhi
- Dr. Subha C. C.: Assistant Professor, Department of Law, Christ University, Delhi NCR Campus, New Delhi
- Alexis Debut: Researcher at the Nanomaterials characterization laboratory, CENCINAT, University of the Armed Forces ESPE, Sangolquí - Ecuador
- Stakeholder Interactions
The following personalities have distinguished themselves to be the ones who are directly associated with the activity of our engineered protein. Their valuable insights into the problems and needs of an efficient antifungal have motivated us to mold our project in the way it is now.
- Dr. Rashmi Mary Philip: Dermatologist, Amala Medical College, Thrissur
- Dr. Sabu Stephen: General physician, ESI Hospital, Kollam
- Dr. Shinu: Pulmonologist, ESI Hospital, Kollam
- Dr. Kiran Narayanan: Paediatrician at GMC, Trivandrum
- Raji Gopal: Senior Lecturer in English, NISH, helped us in making our project more inclusive to all the people around.
- Dr. Satish Khurana: Assistant Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Dr. Poonam Thakur: Assistant Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Dr. Ullasa Kodandaramaiah: Associate Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Dr. Victor Stalin Raj: Associate Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Dr. Jishy Varghese: Assistant Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
- Fr. Jeejo: Head, Pope Paul Mercy Home
- Dr. Chintu Ravishankar: Animal Microbiologist, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pookode, Kerala Veterinary, and Animal Sciences University
- Dr. David Denning: Chief Executive, GAFFI
We thank the following speakers for delivering resourceful talks during the following series of webinars, as a part of enlightening students from various standards and diversity about synthetic biology and about fungus as a domain, concerning the prime topic of the project.
- Synbio Conclave:
- Dr. Drew Endy: Associate professor, Bioengineering faculty at Stanford University President of the BioBricks Foundation Co-founder of the iGEM Competition
- Dr. Ming-Ru Wu: Assistant Professor, DFCI, Harvard Cancer Center Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
- Dr. Edward Boyden: Professor of Neurotechnology, MIT Leader, Synthetic Neurobiology Group, MIT
- Dr. Leonardo Morsut: Assistant Professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, Keck School of Medicine at University of South California
- Dr. Pamela A. Silver: Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School Founding Core Faculty, Wyss Institute at Harvard University Co-founder of the iGEM Competition
- Dark-side of Fungi:
- Dr. Shareek P. S.: Infectious disease specialist. MBBS, MD (General Medicine), FID. Sree Uthradom Thirunal (SUT) Hospital, Pattom.
- Dr. Somanon Bhattacharya: Postdoctoral Associate, Antifungal Drug Resistance, Stony Brook University Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Biophysics from the University of Missouri, KC.
Dr. Harilal Madhavan, Ad-hoc Faculty (Humanities), IISER TVM, He had been mentoring the human practice team in compiling a handbook on biotechnology laws in India, and also the survey that was being released among the general public. We thank him for all the support he has provided.
Mrs. Ajitha K, HOD, Malayalam dept., Victoria College, Palakkad, She has helped the human practices team translate the fungal awareness survey into the native language: Malayalam. We hereby acknowledge help from Mrs. Ajitha.
- Synbio Conclave:
Dr. Poonam Thakur, Assistant Professor, School of Biology, IISER Thiruvananthapuram Being the biosafety officer of the School of Biology (SoB), IISER Thiruvananthapuram, she has guided the team for the safe conduct of experiments in labs, proper disposal of wastes, and any future risks that can arise from the use of GMOs.
Promo video attributions
The team is extremely thankful to S. Jayakrishnan(B16), Rasajna M. (B17), Anumit Saralkar(B17), Simarpreet Kaur(B20), Nandhu K. P. (B19), Rajatava Mukherjee(B18), and Ipshita Mohanty for their help in translating the script of our promo video making it possible to communicate our project in different languages.
And also, thanks to Sreejith K. and Ganga Visual Creative Media for shooting alluring videos of our Vithura campus which have been used in the promo video.
We also thank Bhavya R.(B19) for helping the team in contacting the studio for promo video shoot.
Mr. B. V. Ramesh, Deputy Registrar, Finance and Accounts, IISER TVM, He helped the team in creating a bank account specifically for iGEM. He also helped the team with money transfers for various purposes.
We hereby thank Niyas Rehman, Ph.D. from DREAM LAB, as well as Rithika Saroj Sankar, Chemistry major student from BioNMR LAB, SoC (School of Chemistry), for helping the sponsorship department in getting contacts of various sponsors and laboratory reagent suppliers. Their continuous guidance helped the team in crossing various hardships and kept us motivated throughout the project.
We also thank Mr. Aaron and Mr. Joseph Fernandez from HUM services for guiding the sponsorship team in approaching sponsors through an online meeting. Their valuable inputs helped the sponsorship team modify their techniques and work in a progressive manner.
Mrs. Anu P. Chacko and Mr. Philip M. Elias are hereby thanked for helping the team in getting an appointment to meet the Hon. Tourism Minister of Kerala State.
The team is extremely grateful to all our sponsors who believed in us and helped the team to achieve its goal. Without their support, we wouldn't have been able to be what we are today.
We hereby thank Crompton Greaves, Canara Bank, Crescent labs, and Azure biosystems for providing monetary support. We are extremely grateful to the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation for supporting us through the impact grant which helped us to participate in the Giant Jamboree. We are also thankful to IDT, Beckman Coulter, Origin Diagnostics, ThermoFisher Scientific, Takara Bio, and Hi-Media for providing us with the lab reagents required. SnapGene, Benchling and Labfolder provided us with their premium services and we are grateful to them for their generous support. We also thank the general public who supported us through our Crowdfunding platform Ketto.
The name of our project, MOLDEMORT has been coined by Anumit Devendra Saralkar, Batch 17, IISER TVM. Moldemort came from Voldemort, the main antagonist in J. K. Rowling's series of Harry Potter novels. The name Moldemort implies that our solution will be an antagonist to the mold.
We would like to express our special thanks to the School of Biology (SoB), IISER Thiruvananthapuram, for their immense support, guidance, lab space, and for looking up to any requirements of the team.
We also thank the general public who took part in the survey, attended the webinars conducted by the team to make it a big success, helping us to get a reach for our project and making it relevant in present times.
Last but not least, we would like to show our appreciation to our family and friends for their unconditional support and constant encouragement.