Our team placed a high value on collaboration this year. Synthetic biology is broadly applicable to a wide range of fields, whether it be for basic science of translational research. Ultimately our device was engineered to enable more dynamic optogenetic experiments that can encourage a wide range of researchers to venture into employing optogenetics in their research. To better understand specific features that can enable a broader use of our device we worked with other iGEM teams who were utilizing optogenetics for their projects. We also introduced the freshman bioengineering class to the iGEM competition and the field of synthetic biology. Moreover, we were excited to be able to contribute to educating children and others on synthetic biology in easily digestible forms.
Meeting with NUS-Singapore
Our team met with the NUS (National University of Singapore) iGEM team early this summer to discuss the direction of both of our projects. We decided to meet because of a common focus of both of our projects: optogenetics.
The NUS iGEM team’s project focuses on developing a method for mass production of a naturally-occurring biofungicide. To do this, they are using two optogenetically controlled systems: a red light inducible system that controls the production of their desired product, and a blue light inducible system that controls the aggregation of their yeast for product purification. They also have in place a kill switch that is activated whenever red light stimulation is followed by blue light stimulation.
After talking about our respective projects and current progress, we brainstormed ways our projects and experiences could potentially help each other. Since their construct requires stimulation of two different lights, we took that into consideration as something we could expand our device to do in the future. At the time, our OptoReader was only capable of blue light stimulation, but being able to stimulate with multiple different lights would allow for different pathways to be controlled independently. Therefore we designed a prototype capable of both blue and red light stimulation.
We also talked about a potential collaboration for modeling their red-blue kill switch. Since our device can efficiently run many experimental protocols with varying light stimulation patterns, we wanted to use it to help them characterize the optimal blue to red-light lag time for their biofungicide production kill switch. Unfortunately, due to complications and timing of international shipping of yeast, we were not able to physically carry out these experiments.
Meeting with Team Friendzymes / Open Science Global
Our team met with team Friendzymes to discuss our project's progress and see how our teams could potentially help each other.
Their goal is to democratize the field of synthetic biology by making it more accessible for people to purchase essential synthetic biology reagents. To do so they were developing a more economical and efficient method to mass produce and purify DNA polymerase, to lower cost and increase accessibility. Their goal of accessibility really resonated with us, since we also are taking measures to make sure cost is not a deterrent from employing optogenetics. The optoReader not only works both as a stimulation and as a reading device, but can also be built with less money and and runs using an open-source format. Having this discussion helped us think about how else we could make our device more accessible to all. For this, we have begun drafting a protocol and have uploaded all of our software code to github.
They also needed a plate reader to use for part of their project, and we discussed further about whether the plate reader we have as part of our OptoReader would be suitable for their purposes. In the end, we decided that our plate reader design was not a good enough fit for what they wanted to do with their project, but we were glad that they considered us. Our discussion of the limitations of our plate reader also helped us look broader into the field of synthetic biology and see other uses for plate readers, as well as point to directions where we could improve our device in the future to broaden its utility throughout the field.
Submission to Biodoodle for Team iBowu-China
As part of our collaboration, we submitted to team iBowu-China’s coloring book project. We thought their project was an ingenious approach to increase scientific curiosity. For the project we submitted a coloring book page of GFP and its origin, since protein fluorescence has highly impacted the scientific field by allowing for visualization of protein production and activity at the single cell level and is a feature our Optoreaded utilizes to track the effect of optogenetic stimulation. We are excited to see how their book turns out!