Medals and awards
All the mandatory competition deliverables including the wiki, presentation video and judging form have been submitted.
The KU Leuven iGEM 2021 BLADEN project has truly been a team effort, but we could not have done it without the help from many others involved.
Due to climate change, local conditions around the world are changing rapidly. Plants are versatile organisms that have an extensive secondary metabolism that allows them to respond to biotic and abiotic stresses, but they cannot adapt and evolve at the same pace as the climate is changing, at least not on their own. Fortunately, the field of biotechnology is rapidly advancing. New genomic techniques are constantly being developed to easily genetically modify plants. EvolvR is a very promising tool for continuous directed evolution of plants, which has never been described before. We have shown that a large construct containing EvolvR can effectively be transformed into BY-2 cells and our next steps are to validate the activity of EvolvR in these cells to confirm that it is able to mutate a target genomic region in BY-2 cells. The toolkit, protocols, and hardware designs we have built in our project will certainly advance the field of plant biotechnology towards a future in which plants can rapidly be evolved towards novel phenotypes which can help us battle the effects of climate change and meet the growing food demand.
We wrote about our experience with the iGEM cycle and how it applied to us and supplemented this with tips & trics for future iGEM team with a focus on iGEM mental health. We also wrote a guide about possible use of EvolvR which can be applied to any plant system. Our hardware device can also be used by future iGEM teams to develop further.
As a foundational project, we spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to best build our platform as well as how to design the different parts to be introduced in a new system. Adapting a molecular system from one organism to another can be challenging especially within the timeframe of iGEM, therefore, we opted for a phased approach as described in our project description. The fact that we had to build all our own parts from scratch required many in silico engineering design cycles to get to our final in silico constructs.
We collaborated with other iGEM teams by organizing the Dragons’s biome (pitching the project as a start-up to 4 expert judges). Our hardware design was developed together with the iGEM EPFL team. We attended multiple meetups on business plan, brainstorm, iGEM Global CRISPR Conference by iGEM IISER Behrampur. Additionally, we translated a poster, participating in a post card, lab coat and small presentation video collaboration. We also worked with iGEM Aachen and Eindhoven on their science for kids project.
We used our foundational project to focus on the agricultural sector to ensure food safety. In doing so, we engaged with academia, industry, the government and society at large.
Because BLADEN operates on single plant cells, it is relatively easy to analyze genetic changes and can identify the best genotypes faster than operations on whole plants. Thus, we chose to implement this foundational project to combat the effects of climate change on the agricultural sector.
We used our foundational project to focus on the agricultural sector to ensure food safety. In doing so, we engaged with academia, industry, the government and society at large and used their input to improve our project further.
Our experiment aims to take a riboswitch previously described in the iGEM registry and improve its characteristics such as leakage and dynamic range by creating a library using EvolvR and selecting the variants with the desired characteristics.
Our model aims to emulate in silico cultured plant cells in a continuous evolution platform.
With our project BLADEN we strive to accelerate the evolution of plants using EvolvR for continuous directed evolution (CDE).
We dived into education and communication to bring the project outside of the lab and share the possibilities of synthetic biology with the world.
We decided to organize a “KU Leuven mental health week” directly leading up to the World Mental Health Day to address mental health for iGEM and PhD students.