Team:FDR-HB Peru/Poster

Poster: FDR-HB_Peru

Fishing for Cadmium


Daniela Gioia1, Miski Nopo2, Isabela González1, Kia Cuba1, Andrew Fenton1, Gabriel de Romaña1, Sofia Villafuerte1, Ga-Hyun Kim1, Thiago Aguirre2, Jorge Alonso Diaz1, Ben Falls1, Marry Xuan1, Santiago Ochoa2, Rafaella Velasquez1, Alejandra Domínguez2, Alejandra Reategui2, Valeria Miranda2, Romina Barrantes2, Simon Cubas-Koyama1, Antonia Portocarrero2, Isabella Yoshiyama1, Celine Hoyle1, Kade Webber1, and Miguel Garro2


Dr. Nina Markham1, Dr. Claudia Muñoz2, and Mr. David Kostial1

1 = Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt

2 = Hiram Bingham the British International School of Lima


Our project seeks to tackle the issue of cadmium contamination in fishmeal. We chose this issue because it affects the health of humans, ecosystems, and our local economy. To tackle this issue we have designed a plasmid capable of detecting the concentration of cadmium in blended fish. We have plans to implement a cell-free system to make our solution more accessible to fishermen. We are also working towards making an affordable heated shaking incubator to make the culturing of bacteria easier for other iGEM teams and people working in synthetic biology. Lastly, we have taken strides to make science education more accessible for young adults in Peru, by creating videos, evaluating articles for a young science journal, and subtitling our previous TEDx talk.

About three years ago, our iGEM team visited the fishing company TASA, at one of their fishmeal factories. We found that the fishing industry is greatly affected by heavy metal, specifically cadmium, contamination caused by illegal gold mining in the Amazon. We continue to consistently work with TASA and our collaboration continues to inspire our work.
Cadmium is a prevalent contaminant in Peru, affecting peruvian soil, and water. Through the food chain humans ingest cadmium which can lead to lung, kidney, and neurological damage. Cadmium in exported products, such as fishmeal and cacao, decreasing their competitive edge therefore negatively impacting our local economy.
Last year we focused on making a bioassay that used live bacteria to detect different concentrations of cadmium. We changed our focus towards a cell free system because it would be easier for fishermen to use and would decrease our detection time.
Integrated Human Practices

We have been working with TASA, a large fishmeal company, for two years. Our goal has been to develop a Cadmium (Cd) detection system for them.

In discussions with TASA, we confirmed that fishermen probably won't feel comfortable working with bacteria on the boat and presented our idea for a cell-free system.TASA agreed that we should pursue the cell-free option. Thus, we are currently designing a dipstick for the fisherman to use to detect Cd on the boat. A benefit of this option is that it could decrease the detection time of Cd from 8-24 hours down to 1-2 hours.

Meeting with TASA


Construct 1


The MerR protein, constitutively expressed, represses the PcadA promoter. When cadmium is present, the MerR protein is released from the PcadA promoter site, allowing RFP to be expressed, signifying the presence of Cadmium.

Construct 2 and Construct 3



Spacers were added before the PcadA promoter in Construct 2 and after the PcadA promoter in Construct 3 to test whether or not they serve to enhance our RFP expression rate.

Construct 4, Construct 5, and Construct 6





These plasmids are versions of constructs 1, 2, and 3 with the addition of BamHI and BgIII restriction sites surrounding the RBS to allow for the insertion of additional RFP segments if necessary for detection.

Construct 7


Construct 7 is an alternate version of construct 1 with the substitution of a T7 promoter. This should increase efficiency in our cell-free system.

Parts Used

  • T7 promoter - BBa_K3033000
  • Constitutive promoter - BBa_J23100
  • RBS+MerR - BBa_K1724002
  • PcadA promoter - BBa_K1724000
  • RBS - BBa_J34801
  • mRFP - BBa_I13521
  • TT - BBa_B0015
Experimental Design

Our goal is to create a paper-strip style dipstick test that will produce a visible color change when certain levels of Cadmium is present. This flowchart represents our experimental design in order to achieve this goal.


Shaking Incubator - Open-Source Manual

When realizing that Africa and South America accounted for less than 4% of the teams, we couldn't help but question the financial aspect of the situation. To bridge this gap, we have worked on turning our last year's hardware device (bioassay) into an open-source instruction manual for the construction of the shaking incubator to help other institutions have an easy and cheap way of growing bacteria. What makes this even better is that it can help people all over the world practice synthetic biology as long as they have $40 (reduced from common $900).

Cell-Free Test

We have started to create initial freeze-drying protocols to be carried out when possible to turn our liquid cell-free system into a dipstick fast test. This would make our solution easier to use (no onsite pipetting, less maintenance, etc.).

Education & Outreach

TEDxYouth@Tukuy 2020 Workshop

On August 22, TEDxYouth@Tukuy hosted an event for 700 students from all over Peru, where two of our team members led a webinar about synthetic biology and problem solving.

TEDx Talk: “La ciencia en manos de escolares”

This year, our iGEM team’s TEDxTukuy talk was uploaded on Youtube and to the official TED website. In September, we created subtitles for this TED talk both in English and Spanish and submitted them to the TED organization for them to be uploaded to the TEDx talk video. These subtitles will make the video more accessible to a worldwide audience.

Educational videos produced in collaboration with UPCH_Peru

In collaboration with the UPCH iGEM team we created a series of scientific educational videos for Peruvian students, who had limited access to science education.

The series was made up of 4 parts in total:

  • Introduction to the scientific method
  • Introduction to synthetic biology
  • FDR-HB_Peru team project
  • UPCH_Peru team project

Workshop organized in collaboration with UPCH_Peru

We organized a hands-on virtual event for youth from three main regions of Peru held on October 24th alongside the UPCH_Peru iGEM team. This event had the goal of informing students about synthetic biology and our team projects, but most importantly developing their curiosity and interest in science.

Journal Club Peru Presentation

We gave an online presentation on Journal Club Peru’s Facebook platform with over 10,000 followers. Three of our iGEM members explained the basics of synthetic biology and described our project in a fun and engaging way for other Peruvian students.

Frontiers for Young Minds

Frontiers for Young Minds is a science journal for young students, reviewed by middle and high school students before they get published. We help provide feedback to scientists on how to modify their articles to make them more appealing and understandable to young audiences.

Attributions & Acknowledgements


Dr. Daniel Guerra

Dr. Cristina Guerra

Professor Hugo Flores

Wiki Illustrations

Isabel García



IGEM Tuebingen Team

IGEM Lambert_GA Team