7 October 2013

CUHK Undergraduate Students Win Silver Medal at iGEM Asia
Heading to US Next Month for World Championship



A genetic engineering team formed by 14 undergraduate students of science and engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has won a silver medal at the iGEM  (international Genetic Engineered Machine) Asia Regional Jamboree.  They also won the Best New BioBrick Part or Device (Engineered) Award and were qualified to compete for the world championship with over 50 elite teams in the iGEM World Jamboree to be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in November. 

The 2013 iGEM Asian Jamboree was held on the CUHK campus during the last weekend (October 4-6).  A total of 65 teams from different universities in over 20 Asian nations or regions joined the competition, among which only 19 teams can compete for the world championship.  Officiating at the opening ceremony, Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK expressed his appreciation to all participating students who showed their innovative ideas and dedications in carrying out the experiments.  The students were required to use genetic engineering and synthetic biology approaches to design new strains of bacteria which can produce new materials to solve problems associated with sustainable development, food and energy crises, and to improve medical technologies. 

The winning project of the CUHK team was named 'Switch Off PAHs'.  They have designed a voltage switch to control the enzymatic reactions of bacteria so that they can degrade poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) more effectively, such as benzo-a-pyrene (BaP), a common environmental pollutant and a well-known carcinogen.  This innovative technology may be useful in improving air quality and public health.  Over the past five months, the CUHK team had been devoted to developing the project from scratch with great team spirit, from defining themes and experiments to developing new parts, models and biobricks.  They have also published a wiki page, produced posters and introduced the project and the new devices on public occasions. 

About iGEM Competition 

iGEM is an annual premier synthetic biology competition worldwide for high school, undergraduate and postgraduate students.  It was established by the MIT in 2004 to foster students' learning in synthetic biology, promote collaboration among students and nurture biology talents.  Participating teams are required to specify, design, build, and test simple biological systems made from standard, interchangeable biological parts.  The accomplishments of these student teams often lead to important advances in medicine, energy, and the environment.  For more information, please visit http://www.igem.org.

Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK (2nd right) officiates at the opening ceremony of iGEM Asia Regional Jamboree.
Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK (2nd right) officiates at the opening ceremony of iGEM Asia Regional Jamboree.

The genetic engineering team formed by undergraduate students of science and engineering at CUHK.
The genetic engineering team formed by undergraduate students of science and engineering at CUHK.