Every year, iGEM teams from around the globe develop new and exciting synthetic biology solutions to pressing issues, from living therapeutics to plastic degrading microbes to novel biofuel production pathways.
However, concerns over horizontal gene transfer are a major roadblock in the implementation of synthetic biology projects. The spread of synthetic genes through the natural environment is a huge threat, as no one can know for certain the effects this will have on native microbial communities and the surrounding ecosystem. Until the SynBio community can ensure the safety and security of their genetic engineering solutions, they are unlikely to be actualized and may never get the chance to solve the problems they were designed for.
This year, Michigan State iGEM is working to combat unwanted horizontal gene transfer in transgenic microbes. Our project, Synterception, is a multilayered, adaptable biocontainment platform in E. coli designed to prevent the release of synthetic genes and empower iGEM teams to begin thinking beyond the lab.