Bacteria that detect disease: An Affibody-Based Bacterial Biomarker Assay
We are developing an innovative system to detect disease at an early stage, based on the principles of synthetic biology. Our team is made up by students studying at the three largest universities in Stockholm, and we are competing in iGEM, an international student competition in synthetic biology. We need funding to finish the project and to represent Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University at a five day conference in Boston, USA in late September 2015.
Who are we?
Our team is made up of 18 students from 12 countries that will represent Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University in an international student competition in synthetic biology called iGEM. This is the first time that students of three major universities of Stockholm, Sweden collaborate together to participate in this competition. We aim to develop an innovative and cost-effective method beneficial both for patients and the healthcare system by detecting disease biomarkers in patient samples. We’ve raised half the funds to buy materials for our research and bring our team to the finals at MIT in Boston in September. Now we need your help to get us to the finish line!
Our project: Bacteria that detect disease
Many serious diseases like cancer can be detected by looking for proteins that should not be present in the body. We are building bacteria that will change color when they find these disease related proteins. Replacing only a small part of the system should allow us to detect thousands of different targets. Growing these bacteria in the lab and exposing them to samples from patients could then become a method of diagnosing disease.
Our idea uses small molecules known as Affibodies, originally developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, which can be engineered to bind to thousands of proteins. We are fusing these Affibody molecules into the natural systems bacteria use to sense changes in their surroundings. If we prove our concept to detect one target the conserved structure of Affibody molecules should mean that many other targets could be detected as well.
Meet the team
We’re proud of being a diverse team of:
- 18 students
- from 12 countries
- studying at 3 universities
- belonging to 5 different educational programmes
What is synthetic biology?
Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary field which couples both biology and engineering to design and construct beneficial and functional biological systems or devices. Differing from the genetic engineering approach, synthetic biology makes use of basic engineering principles such as standardisation, modularisation and reusability. As a result, synthetic biology is considered highly promising for generating feasible and sustainable solutions to real world problems and challenges, ranging from industrial to medical sectors. Within the latter, synthetic biology constitutes a tool of great interest for the development of innovative biosensors for the detection of clinical biomarkers.
What is iGEM?
The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is a global Synthetic Biology competition, with about 280 teams participating from all over the world.
In September 2015, the Giant Jamboree is held in Boston, MA, USA. This is a 5-day showcase event that features team presentations and poster sessions for all participating teams. Moreover, the team will have the opportunity to take part in workshops, networking sessions, panel discussions, and the award ceremony. Being able to communicate and exchange ideas and results within an international, scientific community will be highly valuable for the team members and the supporting parts. Given that this is the first ever cooperative Stockholm-based iGEM team, all the contributing efforts that make this project possible will be profoundly acknowledged.
For more information on iGEM, visit igem.org.