Alya served as this year’s Student Team Leader alongside Luke Bateman. After participating in last year’s project as Head of the Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup, she was motivated to continue her work leading Phase II of the project. After the Virtual Jamboree in November, she helped develop a recruitment campaign to advertise the King’s College London iGEM team. This involved reaching out to different departments, developing outreach content and hosting an introductory event. Following this, she organised a hack-a-thon for the interview process, where participants were tasked to develop a mock-iGEM project. Throughout the project, Alya helped guide and supervise the projects’ Subgroups, to ensure objectives and medal criteria were being met. She worked closely with the SCI Biochemistry Subgroup to elucidate the biochemical cascades of ChABC and function of Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans (CSPGs) relative to spinal cord injuries. Alya also supported her team by advising and orchestrating the idea creation of our project design; throughout the season she encouraged active communication and team-work amongst her team. Outside of her scientific work, she helped launch our Pilot Competition, Biologix, where she helped secure sponsorship from Promega and New England Biolabs. In addition, she helped organise lectures from external speakers, develop educational resources and co-ordinate the team’s training under the King’s College London’s Student Union (KCLSU). In addition, she worked closely with the entrepreneurship team to develop their business plan and pitch deck, namely working towards finalising their script, assisting in rehearsals and incorporating stakeholder feedback. Similarly, she supported the development of both video deliverables, where she helped develop their storyboard and write their script. Finally, she also focussed on developing our team’s science communication and human practices by engaging with iGEM teams, academics and industry personnel to promote the work of Renervate Therapeutics.
Luke Bateman was this year’s Team Leader alongside Alya Masoud Abdelhafid. After taking on the role, Luke began to raise awareness of the iGEM competition across multiple disciplines across King’s College London, designing and conducting an interview process, media campaign and constructing the team. In the early stages of the project, Luke was heavily involved in the Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup, where he provided foundations to the new team about Mussel Foot Protein adhesive chemistry and planned a new direction for phase II alongside Harshraj Bumia, as well providing directionality for research for the project as a whole. Outside of his role here, he contributed to the management of the development of the project, completing administrative tasks and piecing together an environment encouraging teamwork, communication and respect. Luke provided a great contribution to the design of the promotional video, directing the design team in the creation of vectors and animations, as well as providing an abundance of vectors using Adobe Illustrator. In addition, Luke was responsible for the construction and completion of the team wiki, providing the foundations required for the development of the website, as well as hosting workshops detailing general coding knowledge and practice, resources to learn, and navigation of the iGEM wiki to the team. Furthermore, he was responsible for the creation of the menu bar. Finally, Luke secured the team with residence for the summer under the kind donation of King’s Residences.
Aditya was a primary member of the Bioprinting Subgroup, he carried out extensive literature reviews on the pore shape and design, the optimal printing parameters required for the scaffold and the possible inclusion of a drug delivery system. Aditya also acted as a bridge between the Bioprinting and MFP Subgroups in which he developed a visualisation of the binding between PCL and MFP on PyMol alongside Milan Singh, in order to validate whether they would bind in-vitro and in-vivo. Using this work, he estimated the amount of MFP required to bind to the PCL scaffold in order to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of our adhesive. Furthermore, he spearheaded the educational outreach programmes for Biologix. Firstly, by participating in the human practices with the Widening participation team at KCL in order to discuss and refine the structure of the competition. Secondly, by attending the project planning workshops given by KCLSU and using the information to organise lectures in liaison with other iGEM teams. Aditya also crucially advanced the entrepreneurship segment of the project. Specifically, he contributed to the business plan by conducting an analysis of the costs required for the therapy and assessing the financial projections. As well as this, Aditya helped in constructing and presenting our pitch deck to relevant stakeholders.
Akashdeep was a primary member of the SCI Subgroup. Here, she conducted literature research investigating the characteristics of the thoracic and cervical regions of the spinal cord and the subsequent effects of SCI on these regions. Additionally, she researched into atrophy following SCI and helped develop a timeline of progression for our treatment. Akashdeep also contributed to our science communication and educational outreach, by developing a Synthetic Biology textbook and creating social media posts for SCI awareness month. In addition, she was involved in the development of the promotional video script and assisted with the entrepreneurial aspects of the project by conducting an in-depth competitor analysis to provide an insight into the SCI treatment market.
Alia was a primary member of the Mussel Foot Protein (MFP) Subgroup, as well as playing a key role in the design team for Renervate Therapeutics. Alia conducted extensive research and literature reviews into PVFP-5, specifically relating to its chemistry and identifying methods in reducing its auto-oxidative nature in the lab. She also engaged in human practices meetings to discuss the binding of PVFP-5 with PCL, to ensure the functional success of our protein in combination with the scaffold. Furthermore, Alia worked in the lab to validate Phase I research by expressing PVFP-5 in E. coli and helped research and write purification protocols. As part of the design team, Alia assisted in designing our logo alongside Sichun Yao, as well as being a storyboard artist for the promotional video and creating vectors for both the presentation video and team wiki. Alia was also involved in scriptwriting and recording of the presentation video, as well as collaborations with other iGEM teams, including participating in a podcast recorded with the Manchester iGEM team. Finally, Alia facilitated in refining the engineering cycles for all three aspects of our project.
Angela was a core member of the spinal cord injury (SCI) Subgroup. She conducted extensive literature reviews in the inhibitory microenvironment of the SCI lesion, where she investigated the axonal growth limiting interactions between PTPsigma and ECM molecules (CSPGs) and characterised axonal growth relative to ChABC. Alongside Kate Flanagan, she helped to develop a CSPG guide for educational outreach. In addition, she completed research on combinatorial approaches using ChABC for the treatment of SCI and identified other potential uses of ChABC in the field of regenerative medicine. Angela also participated in human practices, where she approached researchers and biotechnology start-ups for entrepreneurship. She contributed to the business plan and helped design our pitch deck presentation. Angela was also involved in science communication, where she wrote an article on neurodegeneration in SCI and helped develop SCI awareness media campaigns. Furthermore, she completed narrations and translations of the promotional video and as part of the design team, she helped design our project logo alongside Alia Nathoo. Lastly, Angela participated in coding, structuring and designing the team wiki.
Beatriz was a primary member of the SCI Subgroup, where she was responsible for developing rehabilitation protocols, assessing the role of atrophy and the possibility of a Foreign Body reaction in our therapy. She worked towards refining our project design and collating our research related to SCI Biochemistry. In addition, Beatriz researched into ChABC combinatorial treatment options, imaging modalities and non-invasive methods to assess the success of our therapy. She also participated in science communication, where she co-wrote two articles for scientific magazines and developed Instagram posts to raise awareness on SCI. Additionally, she assisted in the development of the entrepreneurial and human practices aspects of the project, where she researched supply chains and engaged with relevant stakeholders. Beatriz also helped deliver our first Biologix lecture, as well as liaising with ‘Mother Nature Science’ for our educational outreach. She worked on structuring, designing and animating the Promotional video, and narrated our video in Portuguese. Lastly, Beatriz played a key role in structuring, designing and coding the iGEM wiki, as well as designing and implementing many interactive graphical control elements.
Charity was a primary member of the SCI Subgroup, where she conducted extensive literature research into the SCI microenvironment and foreign body reactions, with a particular focus on inflammatory cascades. She also participated in entrepreneurial research, where she developed our licensing strategy and investigated our project’s prior art. Charity also engaged in science communication and educational outreach, where she organised short quizzes, developed social media posts and lectures on Synthetic Biology. Furthermore, she engaged with the University of Manchester iGEM team to further our human practices outreach by interviewing clinicians and researchers. She also participated in other collaboration initiatives including developing a comic book strip for ISSER Berhampur. Charity also played a key role in audio and video production. She was responsible for conceptualisation, story-board progression and video editing for the promotional and presentation videos, as well as contributing to vector design and composing music for these project deliverables.
Ela was the Co-Head of the Bioprinting subteam alongside Remy Tran. She was responsible for ensuring that the Subgroup ran efficiently—via organising and allocating tasks, alongside time management, proof-reading Bioprinting research, and providing guidance for the subteam. She carried out extensive literature reviews investigating the micro-architecture of the scaffold and identified the ideal pore parameters and geometries in order to assess the design created in Phase I and the effectiveness of the change in design for Phase II. Further concerning scaffold architecture, after consulting literature, she supported the decision to change the scaffold's macro-architecture design. She was also jointly responsible, alongside Thurga Navaseelan, for the Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulations of the scaffold using ANSYS—including research on simulation parameters and assumptions, meshing the scaffold in preparation for simulation, and deciding on boundary conditions—to ultimately validate and assess the scaffolds’ permeability and wall shear stress. Throughout both of these engineering cycles, she organised human practices calls and liaised with experts to help guide and reaffirm our choices. Moreover, she organised the mechanical lab testing performed for the scaffold to validate its physical properties. Finally, she assisted in the Biologix competition by recording a section of a lecture and participating in the students’ drop-in session.
Emily was a primary member of the Bioprinting Subgroup, where she conducted extensive literature research into scaffold design micro- and macro-architecture. This allowed her to construct a CAD model of our log-pile scaffold. Through her research she determined a method towards efficient scaffold fabrication, finalising these findings in the creation of a guide for the iGEM community. Emily also conducted research into fluid mechanics, where she determined methods and input values required for further computational fluid dynamics modelling carried out by Ela Kanani and Thurga Navaseelan. Emily was heavily involved in design, science communication and media outreach for the project, where she spearheaded our social media campaigns and developed presentations for our collaborations, human practices and entrepreneurial engagements. In addition, she played a key role in animating our promotional video using Opentoonz and assisted in developing our final presentation video. Furthermore, she helped develop the Biologix website and design structure of the team wiki.
Finn was primarily a member of the Bioprinting Subgroup. Primarily, Finn worked on collating information across various aspects of the project to help produce the finalised content in Bioprinting, SCI and Education. He proofread and devised the structure for various write-ups of our project design and structure. Finn also contributed to the iGEM community by developing a 3D printing guidebook. As part of the Bioprinting Subgroup, he conducted research investigating scaffold porosity, unit cell designs, printers and materials. He also aided in the initial research regarding the implementation of drugs and delivery methods, as well as analysing existing SCI therapies. Lastly, he conducted additional research into using hydrogels for SCI treatment and alternative therapeutic agents for our proposed implementation.
Harsh was the head of the Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup and laboratory team. As Subgroup leader, he played a fundamental role in the development of the subteams' work, instilling his knowledge from the previous year. He played a key role in ensuring all avenues of research were being completed efficiently, managing tasks and workloads. He completed research on the applications of MFP, particularly focussing on developing laboratory protocols for all of our experiments. Harsh also worked towards synthesising our expression vectors, and optimising our protein production in the lab. He assisted in the creation of our structural model of PVFP-5 alongside Dimitar Dimitrov and worked towards developing our proof of concept. In addition, he supported the team by engaging in human practices and educational outreach, specifically in the development of our pilot competition, Biologix.
Kate conducted extensive literature reviews on Chondroitinase ABC and the SCI microenvironment, specifically understanding the mechanisms behind Chondroitin Sulphate Proteoglycans (CSPGs). She engaged in human practices by contacting experts in ChABC, CSPGs and spinal cord injuries, using the gathered insight to formulate the SCI Subgroup research and development. Kate also co-wrote an in-depth guide on CSPG functionality, specifically the structure and function of the different types of CSPGs and how they act to inhibit axonal regrowth in SCI. She determined the most naturally stable sequence of ChABC and highlighted the active sites of the enzyme. Kate worked in the lab on the expression of ChABC and PVFP-5, as well as the in silico validation of ChABC thermostabilisation in collaboration with Phystech Moscow. She helped develop and visualise the engineering cycles for the SCI Subgroup by producing flowcharts, as well as contributing to the script for the presentation video, utilising her developed knowledge of SCI. Kate co-wrote two scientific articles for science communication as well as creating an Instagram post to spread awareness about SCI. In addition, Kate also procured a sponsorship for the competition Biologix. She assisted in understanding the MFP-ECM binding mechanisms and ensuring that ChABC would not halter the adhesiveness of PVFP-5.
Milan was a primary member of the Mussel Foot Protein (MFP) Subgroup. Here, she conducted extensive literature reviews on the functionality of PVFP-5, specifically focussing on surface interactions, reactivity and strategies to prevent unwanted oxidation reactions. To complement her research she organised and engaged with stakeholders as part of the teams’ integrated human practices. Milan also researched different approaches to engineer and improve the properties of PVFP-5, most notably the PVFP-5 / Spidroin fusion. Additionally, she predicted the MFP-PCL binding model and developed a video alongside Aditya Shirode to showcase their findings. Furthermore, she also worked in the laboratory, where she prepared cultures and ran separation techniques for ChABC, as well as prepared purification protocols for PVFP-5. Other than participating in scientific research, Milan was involved in animating part of the promotional video with ‘Opentoonz’ and narrated the video in Italian. She also helped develop the projects’ outreach through science communication, where she wrote an article on the functionality of PVFP-5 for a chemistry magazine and participated in developing the Biologix competition in its early stages.
Aini was part of the Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup and contributed to research surrounding the suitability of hydrogels versus microinjections as a delivery vehicle for ChABC. She also researched into the feasible vertebral locations in which to deliver the enzyme alongside holistic processes across surgical and rehabilitation procedures. In addition to research, she contributed towards developing the projects’ Engineering Success cycles and the design of Canva diagrams to better illustrate fundamental concepts of SCI research and for September’s Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month as part of science communication. Moreover, Aini was involved in our Inclusivity research, aiding the launch of Biologix and helping to structure the first lecture. With regards to the entrepreneurial aspects of the project, she focused on funding strategies to develop the Business Plan and participated in our pitches. Lastly, she took part in several Human Practices meetings which helped shape and refine the project design, participated in presentations for meetups, and aided creation of the promotional video as one of the main animators using ‘Opentoonz’, which Aini also narrated in Bahasa Melayu.
Remy worked alongside Ela Kanani as Co-Head of Bioprinting, this year he collaborated with Professor Trevor Coward and Giovanni Gonella to print the PCL scaffold at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. He conducted research into the bioprinting team’s engineering success and scaffold engineering and reinforced this information by contacting researchers in the field for human practices. Following this, Remy collated information on our novel treatment to produce a 3D printing guidebook. Remy was also part of the Entrepreneurship team, helping to produce and design the pitch deck, pitching it to a panel, and aided the Entrepreneurship team in producing the business plan. For this, Remy researched licensing strategy, funding routes, and supply chain of our treatment.
Thurga was a primary member of the Bioprinting Subgroup; initially researching methods to model axonal regrowth via the use of our scaffold design. She also contributed to research surrounding the redesign of our scaffold microarchitecture, conducting literature reviews regarding the importance of linear, homogenous pores. Alongside Ela Kanani, she was responsible for computationally testing the new scaffold macro- and micro-architecture through Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulations. This involved extensive research into the software ANSYS, and the general set up of CFD models. She also went into the lab to run compressive tests on our printed scaffolds. As a secondary member of the Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup, Thurga also assisted with early research into the implementation of ChABC into our therapy. Additionally, she was on the Design and Science Communication teams, creating posts about the applications of synthetic biology for social media and vectors for the promotional video. She also provided the Tamil translation and narration for the promotional video. For our Biologix competition, she narrated sections of a lecture. Finally, Thurga completed research into patenting and the routes we could take to protect our intellectual property given our position as an iGEM team.
Kalyan was a primary member of the MFP team. He helped research and select a plasmid backbone, which would be used in our wet-lab work to synthesize PVFP-5. In addition, he researched the applications of mussel foot proteins, mussel inspired polymers and investigated the pH behaviour of PVFP-5. He also aided in developing laboratory protocols. Outside of scientific research, he organised and led much of the proposed implementation and entrepreneurial work. Adding to this work he also aided in the development and presentation of the pitch deck. Furthermore, Kalyan contributed significantly to the scripts for the Promotional Video, Presentational Video and Pitchdeck. Kalyan has also helped in our educational outreach, creating a pre-recorded lecture in collaboration with St Andrews and Mother Nature for primary school and high school students about the applications of Synthetic Biology in solving global problems.
Dr Anatoliy Markiv served as the Primary Instructor of Renervate Therapeutics. Dr Markiv has been instrumental to the successful completion of our iGEM project. Through working to secure grants from the university and funding bodies, Dr Markiv empowered our team with the opportunity to partake in the iGEM competition. Dr Markiv allowed our team to work within his laboratory, providing all of the required supervision and wet lab training in addition to providing us with his guidance, insight and the ability to learn from him.
Dr Alison Snape served as our Secondary Instructor throughout the year and provided support and guidance since the team’s formation. Dr Snape was instrumental in securing grants from the university and external funding bodies which made this year’s team possible. Additionally, Dr Snape has been there to support the team throughout the year, providing guidance in areas including ChABC research and finances. Through helping to develop our team’s skills and experience repertoire, Dr Snape empowered us with opportunities including to pitch to the faculty at King’s College London.
After serving as the Co-Team Leader of KCL iGEM 2020, Abigail continued to support the development of “Renervate” as an advisor. She provided initial guidance to the Team Leaders Luke and Alya during the formation of the 2021 team by assisting in interviews and assessing student applications. Throughout the initial stages of team formation she helped with student team member adjustments and provided continuous support to the wellbeing of the current leads. Beyond this, she provided workshops to help direct the team’s design and brand identity. Using her prior Wiki knowledge, she also provided lessons to teach new team members HTML and CSS, as well as demonstrate basics of Wiki editing. Finally, Abigail aided in developing the preliminary wet lab approach with PVFP-5, using her knowledge from last year’s project.
Stephanie served as an Instructor, after undertaking the role of 2020 Co-Team Lead of the KCL iGEM Team. As an instructor, Stephanie provided guidance and training to the team and team leaders since the inception of “Renervate Therapeutics”. Through the year, Stephanie’s roles included working to support the team leaders with the recruiting, orchestration and leading of the team, in addition to supporting and training the team members, focusing on areas including scientific skill development, strategy, entrepreneurship and navigating the competition landscape.
We are grateful for the support provided by the clinicians, academics and industry stakeholders involved in the development of Renervate Therapeutics - without their guidance and support we would not have been able to complete our engineering cycle. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Professor Helen Collins, Ajay Shah and Keith Newton from King's College London for helping us participate in the iGEM competition by paying for our entry fee.
Helped guide and support the development of our Business Plan and Pitchdeck. He gave us insights into our market entry strategy as well as collaborating and partnering with other biotech startups.
Dr Carnicer-Lombarte informed our research on foreign body reactions, specifically in the spinal cord. He guided our decisions on what measures to take to minimize this reaction. Our discussion with him enabled us to ensure our scaffold would still be able to function once implanted into the lesion site.
Dr Andrew Beavil continued in the support of the KCL iGEM team after last year. This year he helped in the development of the PVFP-5 structural model by providing advice on the different modelling approaches we can use, and also validated our final modelling approach through the use of AlphaFold2 protein structure prediction software.
Informed and brainstormed potential avenues to upscale Renervate Therapeutics. Discussed the potential of Renervate Therapeutics’ entering the Ideation Clinic at the Praxis Institute.
Explained opportunities for Biologix in the KCLSU and K+ programme as well as advised on how we could prioritise our competitions’ participants.
Helped inform the Bioprinting team on 3D printing and testing of PCL scaffold. She provided insight into ethical approvals and testing needed for introducing new materials and therapies onto the market.
Helped guide our research into modelling cerebrospinal fluid, and validated assumptions and simplifications made for the computational fluid dynamic simulations.
Aided in the development of the expression and purification protocol of PVFP-5. Byeonsong Yang helped advise the team on protein expression methods for mussel foot proteins and furthermore, helped advise the team on the use of mussel foot protein fusions such as the silk-spidroin protein.
Informed regarding patenting routes for Renervate Therapeutics especially as a team under King’s College London and therefore guided patenting and licensing strategy outlined in proposed implementation and entrepreneurship.
Alongside Dr Muir, Professor Bradbury helped in elucidating the potential of ChABC as part of our therapy. She advised us on varying methods of implementing ChABC and bypassing the issue of thermostabilising the enzyme.
Alongside Professor Bradbury, Dr Muir helped in elucidating the potential of ChABC as part of our therapy. She advised us on varying methods of implementing ChABC and bypassing the issue of thermostabilising the enzyme.
Supported our entrepreneurship research and provided valuable insights into patenting strategies.
Helped troubleshoot our issues with 3D printing Phase I scaffold design and successfully printed our new, Phase II, scaffold by adjusting printing parameters.
Supported us in the preparation of the UK Meetup and helped host the event, he also supported our entrepreneurial research.
Mr Grahovac advised and helped in developing our surgical procedures. He guided our decisions on the region of the spinal cord that we’ll surgically implant our scaffold. Mr Grahovac also advised on the importance of characterising atrophy.
Professor Tear worked to secure and support the team through providing King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship opportunities, which provided funding, skill development and knowledge opportunities for team members over the summer. During the finalisation of the project, he provided valuable feedback and helped us prepare for the presentation video.
Professor Waite helped in troubleshooting and validating several aspects of the team’s MFP design. Alongside troubleshooting PVFP-5 expression and purification, Professor Thwaite aided in detailing the chemical structure of PVFP-5 and aiding in the development of PVFP-5 as a therapeutic adhesive.
Aided in development of science communication and project delivery. Allowed us to focus on the ethical implications of our project by opening a discussion with our community.
Dr Lee advised us on each of our initial potential modelling avenues and influenced our decision to pursue Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). From here, he provided primary discussions of computational fluid dynamics and simplification of our model.
Professor Fawcett took part in discussions involving the foreign body reaction. Also, he advised on the issue of the stubs left behind by ChABC degradation. Lastly, Professor Fawcett advised on the practical implementation of the scaffold.
Dr Jerry Silver elucidated many aspects in evaluating safety considerations of scaffold implantation in the spinal cord. He also advised on the use of ChABC as well as glial scar resection. Dr Silver also helped describe axonal retraction and dieback.
Dr An advised us on our scaffold’s design, specifically warning us on how our scaffold’s porosity could affect its mechanical properties—and that we should match the scaffold’s properties to the spinal cord as closely as possible. He also advised us on different methods of printing (namely selective laser sintering (SLS)) and different pore geometries.
Assisted in the launch of the Biologix Competition, and helped launch the competition. She also provided us with a list of South-East London schools to contact.
Supported our entrepreneurial research.
Supported the development of our presentation deliverables.
Dr Lorenzo Veschine suggested implementing a cross-hatch scaffold to introduce porosity to our design, and provided feedback on the feasibility of our macro-architecture.
Dr Hettiaratchi explained her method of thermostabilising ChABC. She advised on which mutations from her paper were beneficial and advised on the use of computational mutagenesis for the thermostabilization of ChABC for our project.
Helped in the discussion on ethics of spinal cord injury patients, and effects of Brexit on biotechnological startups. Explained the basis of technology levels on startups.
Provided guidance in developing a start-up including funding and market strategy. Also discussed a potential partnership using their exosome-based delivery system.
Dr Paul Brown helped develop our plasmid expression. In particular, Paul Brown was the first to suggest the use of the shuffle E. coli bacteria strain to avoid the inherent mismatch caused by using a BL21 (DE3) strain on a plasmid without a T7 RNA polymerase.
Dr Barry helped validate our PVFP-5 and PCL binding model by agreeing that hydrogen bonding was likely to be the main contributor to binding, and also suggesting the inclusion of alternate binding modes such as hydrophobic bonding.
Explained opportunities for Biologix in the KCLSU and K+ programme as well as aiding in Biologix Participant welfare.
Assisted in optimization and simplification of computational fluid dynamics model. He gave us insights into the meshing process for CFD modelling and validated the assumptions that we were using to set up our model.
Provided technical feedback for Phase I scaffold micro-architecture. After having supported us in Phase I he went on to work with us on Phase II of the project. Professor Coward offered valuable insights into scaffold architecture and helped us with laboratory and 3D printer access.