Team:Open Science Global/Collaborations



As an international team, with members distributed across five continents, over ten countries, three community labs, and one research facility, we have many opportunities to build collaborations not only between iGEM teams, but also with independent researchers across the globe.

Unlike most traditional iGEM teams, coordinating our disparate teams over 11 time-zones (from Vancouver to India to Philippines) to work as efficiently as possible together has been a challenge (some might say, an organisational nightmare) but, over the iGEM season, we have found more and more ways to do this successfully (see our Excellence: Diversity page to find out more).

Here, we hope to show you how our Friendzymes iGEM team has made collaborative efforts with:

  1. iGEM 2021 teams around the world: directly collaborating with the teams and in participation in surveys and events.

And how we believe that our international efforts have made us a stronger, more collaborative community, more able to use our experiences to help solve our current and future global challenges together.

1. Collaborations with iGEM 2021 teams

As an international team, we connected virtually with the 8 following teams:

  1. iGEM team 2021: IISER TIRUPATI:

    On July 6th , our teams discussed with team IISER Tirupati about their Oviclock project and the use of contraceptives, and how they planned to engineer protease into B.subtilis. As our own project also aimed to use B.subtilis to express our genetic constructs, we proposed to help contribute to their Mathematical Modelling.

    We also aided them by contributing to their SynTrack: Podcast, where their aim was to discuss with various iGEM teams to give a more holistic view of synthetic biology to their audiences: from developing synthetic biology tools and applications, to career opportunities for budding scientists. Our team members (Ahmed, Harini, and Giovanna) talked with Shubhra from the IISER Tirupati team about democratising biotechnology and the societal impact this can have.

  2. iGEM team 2021: UPenn:

    We had an interactive meeting on July 20th with Team UPenn. Our team were enthusiastic about their plan to build their OptoReader device. They gave us an illuminating insight into the field of optogenetics, and in turn we proposed the possibility of aiding them in producing the hardware components needed to visualize light-emitting proteins from cells that they planned to work with. In turn, UPenn discussed with us whether we could use their OptoReader to do our fluorometric measurements in our own experiments.

    We thought our teams would be a good fit, given that both of us aimed to provide more low cost and easily access hardware for our end-users. However, we later realised that the OptoReader design was not quite compatible with our purposes, and that the time-constraints precluded us from helping with testing their hardware. Even so, our discussions together helped both sides realise that there were more ways that we could develop to make more easily accessible hardware for all to use.

    From their end, UPenn realised that there was scope to improve their OptoReader device to be used for other functions.

    For us, it pushed us to look for other frugal, open-source plate reader designs, which led us to this prototype design by Brian Chow’s lab. From our GoFundMe fundraise, we were finally able to get our BioBlaze team started on making this frugal plate-reader in their lab (see our Hardware page).

  3. iGEM team 2021: MIT MAHE:

    The MIT MAHE project was on Manipal Biomachines. We had a knowledgeable and synergistic meet with this team on August 10th, where they told us about their innovative idea of pest control using B.subtilis Cry Toxin and how they would apply it in agricultural fields. We shared information that we gained from Dan Zeigler [refer HP], from the Bacillus stock centre. We informed them about different vectors that they might find useful as well as parts in the iGEM registry that were interesting to be improved upon since both of our teams shared a single model organism.

    They also participated in our Hackathon[see human practices] as an iGEM team from India giving us and the others in the Hackathon insights into the hardware scale-up required for industrial scales for making bioreactors and how it would be useful in a large biofoundry. They also shared their software ideas that would enable them to efficiently scale the bioreactor design to any level. Due to time constraints this iGEM season, we couldn’t incorporate their ideas into our bio-reactor designs, but we certainly learnt a lot that we will be using beyond iGEM for our hardware purposes.

  4. iGEM team 2021: Aachen:

    On Aug 14th, we met with Team Aachen, whose goal was to synthesise DNA enzymatically (using an enzyme, Terminal Deoxynucleotidyl Transferase, TdT), as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to the current status quo of DNA synthesis (using chemically-toxic phosphoramidite synthesis).

    There is currently a lot of research into using TdT for DNA synthesis, with a fair few start-up companies working towards this goal. We found this fascinating, because TdT would be another potential protein candidate that we could use as part of the frugal bio-toolkit that we are developing.

    Unfortunately, given the cutting-edge work into enzymatic DNA synthesis, there are many patents surrounding TdT and its variants, which prevents us from using this as a protein candidate in our frugal (off-patent) enzyme collection, but we made sure to keep an eye on this area of synthetic biology, should the opportunity eventually appear for us to add this enzyme to our repertoire.

  5. iGEM team 2021: TKS International (see here also for their website):

    On Aug 17th, we were thrilled to meet with another international team like ours, TKS International. We shared ideas about each other’s projects. We were drawn to this team as they shared our global spirit and we had hoped to learn with them about how to run such a global team effectively and efficiently. Their project had a unique and novel approach to using biofertilizer by using the E.coli NIF gene. We discussed challenges in setting up an international team and learnt about how they managed to bridge their communication across time zones. They informed us about FriendTime, a very useful Discord bot that has come in very handy to organise a lot of our sub-team meetings via Discord itself, since our main virtual space of communication is Discord. We shared with them the knowledge of the Work Breakdown structure and Project Management that we gained from Kahlil, our advisor. However, we recently found out that the team has withdrawn from the iGEM 2021 competition. Despite this, we hope to continue engaging with this group, as we too plan to continue our work even after iGEM.

    Friendzymes collaborating with team TKS

  6. iGEM team 2021: Bolivia:

    Like us, Team Bolivia was a first-time participant to iGEM, and so we threw ourselves into helping, and learning, with their team on creating a guidebook on how to participate in iGEM. Find out more about our contribution in their iGEM beginners guidebook here!

  7. iGEM team 2021: NYC_B1O:

    On Aug 24/25th, we spoke to team NYC_B1O about their fascinating project regarding Parkinson's and their two-handed approach involving chaperones and autophagy.

    In turn, we told their about our democratising biology work, and about the FreeGenes Project, Open Enzyme Collection, and the use of OpenMTA to enable everyone to freely access off-patent proteins for engineering biology. Through our discussion, we found we had common ground in the use of green fluorescent protein (GFP), and we gave them advice on how they could interpret GFP levels under a fluorescent microscope.

    We subsequently invited them to join our Discord server so that we could continue our discussions and enable their team to get in touch with other teams that we had been collaborating with. By doing so, we were able to help the NYC_B1O team reach a wider audience and was able to help them recruit more participants in their Human Practice survey efforts to gauge public knowledge about Parkinson’s disease and raise awareness around their project.

  8. iGEM team 2021: Athens:

    We learned about their AdAPTED project regarding dNTP and Polymerase design, and discussed some mutual quality checking for some common wetlab work.

  9. iGEM Design League UTPrimers team

    During this iGEM season, our team members Giovanna Maklouf and Isaac Guerreiro mentored the UTPrimers team. One of the mentoring sessions they did was using a tutorial created by them for the Friendzymes Toolkit (check our Software page for more details) to help optimize the UTPrimers' circuitry. With this, it was also possible to demonstrate that the tutorial can be useful beyond Friendzymes!