Student Team Leaders:
Student Team Leader
Abigail served as the Student Team Leader alongside Stephanie Avraamides. She has been working on this project since she returned from the Jamboree last November. Last year, she hosted the recruitment talks to spread the word about iGEM at King’s and eventually selected this year’s team alongside Stephanie by reading through dozens of applications and hosting interviews. In early 2020, she and Stephanie additionally began the process of founding a Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology society within King’s College London’s Student Union (KCLSU). Through the KCLSU society, our team will implement our Biologix competition and will collaborate with several other societies to further discussions of Synthetic Biology and our university. Abigail was pivotal in the design of our project and originated the concept of a scaffold with a mussel-foot protein based bioadhesive from her research into tissue engineering and bioglues at the start of the year. Throughout 2020, she and Stephanie guided the team throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured that our project adapted to an in silico approach. In this regard, she guided the work regarding the mussel foot protein and worked closely with our collaborators and supervisors. However, she worked closely with each subgroup to ensure that all tasks were completed and that medal criteria were being achieved. Outside of the scientific work, Abigail applied to and secured the highly competitive Promega grant, which ensured that our team could participate in the 2020 iGEM Competition. As a member of last year’s team, Abigail was responsible for the completion of the Wiki, and carried these skills through to this year. Her proudest accomplishment of this year is coding a responsive drop down menu bar, which she was unable to do last year. Outside of the menu bar, she was responsible for the overarching design of the Wiki and hosted weekly sessions to teach other team members how to code in CSS and HTML.
Student Team Leader
Stephanie Avraamides was the Student Team Leader of Renervate. Alongside Abigail Conner, she has worked on the project since the end of 2019 and recruited, interviewed and led the team and orchestrated Renervate. Stephanie co-founded the KCLSU Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Society to continue the legacy of the Biologix competition, recruit members for future iGEM teams and increase the presence of student-driven synbio community at King’s College London. Stephanie alongside Abigail investigated and strategized the project, tailoring Renervate from a laboratory-based project to an in silico project that could be completed by team members based internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stephanie was pivotal in finding the optimal approach for our chosen subset of patients, which led to the idea formation through the converging of synthetic biology with Bioprinting. She was instrumental in designing a personalised 3D bioprinted approach for Spinal Cord Injury, which included the research and validation of the scaffold specifications to optimise the personalised scaffold in line with our human practises work, material choice, and the implementation of the micro and macro-architecture, determined through modelling. As the Team Leader, she played a key role in the role allocation, strategic planning and orchestration of the scientific and additional sub-teams, including the inclusivity team, proposed implementation & entrepreneurship team, working with other iGEM teams for collaboration and orchestrating the therapeutics meet up. Stephanie has pitched Renervate to those who helped to shape our project during our wide-reaching Human Practises Interviews and played an active role in integrating our human practises feedback to optimally shape our project. Subsequently, Stephanie has organised science communication campaigns and opportunities, including pioneering the Biologix competition. Stephanie has corresponded with and secured sponsors for the KCL iGEM 2020 team.
Alya Masoud Abdelhafid:
Head of the Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup
Alya was the Head of the Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup and managed the finances for this year’s project.She supported the team with her organizational skills, ensuring that we had established a robust infrastructure regarding our knowledge in SCI, prior to developing our scaffold design. She was responsible for the characterization of the microenvironment present at the site of the spinal cord injury, investigating the function of proteases and stem cells in SCI treatment and the selection of the properties required for our scaffolding to actively promote axonal regrowth. This knowledge helped us complete the protocols for demonstrating neurite outgrowth, which will help further validate our project design in Phase Two. Furthermore, Alya conducted dissections of the spinal cord at KCL Medical School, in order to facilitate her understanding of the anatomical features involved in our project. Additionally, she assisted the bioprinting team with their research into the forces acting on the spinal cord, microarchitectures, degradation, and helped segment a patient’s scan for the project’s proposed implementation. She completed significant research, which allowed the team to code their degradation program and complete their cough simulation. Moreover, she took part in the Inclusivity Subgroup, where she helped establish the competition Biologix and worked to develop an appropriate marketing plan for the competition. She was also involved in the Public Engagement and Human Practices aspect of the project, which included creating scientific infographics, youtube videos and presenting talks on our project and synthetic biology. She organised interviews with a number of researchers to further the team’s knowledge of the physiology of spinal cord injuries and encouraged interactions with the Spinal Injuries Association based in the UK. Their advice was essential in optimally shaping our project, ensuring we were designing a product that was good for the world.
Co-Head of Dry Lab and Bioprinting Subgroup
Ela was the Co-Head of Dry Lab and Bioprinting, and a part of the inclusivity team. She had an influence in the selection of the scaffold’s material, abiding by the design specifications - which she helped to determine. Moreover, she had a role within implementing the macro scaffold designs computationally, and subsequently the analysis of the mechanical simulation of such - leading to the selection of the final scaffold design. Also, following extensive research regarding the role of micro-architecture within axonal regrowth, Ela computationally designed and implemented the micro-architecture using Grasshopper, after creating The Porosifier algorithm (this open-source file can create porous architecture). Furthermore, she co-wrote Renervate’s MATLAB open-source program for scaffold degradation prediction - with a focus on how porosity affects degradation. Subsequently, she had a role in coding the relevant Bioprinting pages for the wiki in HTML. Finally, she contributed to Human Practices by organising and taking part in interviews with subject-matter experts to aid within the choices made for scaffold design.
Head of BioBricks
Gonzalo León González:
Head of Entrepreneurship
Gonzalo was the Head of Entrepreneurship and part of the Bioprinting and Inclusivity teams. As Head of Entrepreneurship, he led the work in the Proposed Implementations and the Entrepreneurship sections of the project. He researched the marketing methods applied to medical devices, focusing on: the legal procedures both in the EU (CE marking) and in the USA (FDA approval); the safety aspects; the required clinical trials/research; the patents; and the future strategy to put our product in the market. He was also in charge of coding the Entrepreneurship and Proposed Implementations contents in the wiki page. In the Bioprinting team, he worked on the degradation section of the scaffold, which required him: to acquire a good understanding of the factors damaging the structure; to develop an adapted simulation method; and to co-write the simulation coded in MatLab. As part of the Inclusivity team, he contributed to the development of website content. He organised interviews with a variety of experts in fields ranging from simulations and modelling, to entrepreneurship (CE marking and FDA) for the Human Practices section. At the outset of the project, he convened a dissection of the spinal cord at the King’s College London dissection room for all members of the team. Lastly, he translated and recorded the promotional video in Spanish and French.
Head of Structural Modelling
While being the Head of Structural Modelling, Harsh initially worked primarily as a bridge component between the SCI and MFP teams due to his experience in both structural biology and biochemistry. On the SCI side of things, Harsh conducted research into the microenvironment of the injured spinal cord, as well as metabolic cascades associated with an injury. He aided in characterising properties of the PCL Scaffold alongside the Bioprinting team by investigating the role of macro- and micro-architectures, pore size and neurite growth within the scaffold. After making the full transition into the MFP team, Harsh was instrumental in leading the structural modelling of our novel Mussel Foot Protein - Pvfp-5β, using GROMACS MD, YASARA and various other bioinformatic web tools. Harsh took part in several meetings with industry experts to further our insight into spinal cord injuries, and how our MFP bioadhesive can maximise the efficiency of our PCL scaffold. Being on the Design team, Harsh also generated all Pvfp-5β related videos and figures present on the Wiki, in addition to various other scientific infographics on the Renervate social media channels.
Head of Inclusivity Research
Ilaria initially worked as a bridge component between the SCI and Bioprinting teams. Alongside the SCI team, she contributed to gaining information about the microenvironment of the injured spinal cord. Additionally, she researched axonal regeneration and drug delivery systems. Ilaria was also part of the inclusivity team, for which she created infographics, alongside other contents. Finally, she worked on the completion of the Biologix competition pilot, creating the logo for the competition and the handbook of the competition, to facilitate participants, teachers and other teams which would be interested in expanding the competition in their area.
Member of Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup
Jasmin was primarily a member of the Mussel Foot Protein team. She carried out research into the structural features of the mussel foot protein. She has also thoroughly enjoyed communicating Renervate, its research aims, and outreach programmes through social media using accessible Instagram posts - hence has also worked alongside the other Renervate subgroups. This has led her to be able to connect with other professionals not only in the MFP speciality but in the spinal cord injury treatment field. Her keen eye for design was instrumental in the branding of Renervate, its logo, and marketability.
Member of Spinal Cord Injury Subgroup
Chenjiahao Peng joined the King’s 2020 iGEM team in June and has been working on the Spinal Cord Injury side of the project. Chenjiahao initial research regarding pathophysiology of SCI and created a PowerPoint summary for the project design. In addition, Chenjiahao worked on understanding and describing in layman terms the problem of spinal cord injury including the causes, symptoms, why current solutions are inadequate and the pathophysiology. Chenjiahao was instrumental in ensuring we could contact teams in China and ensure they knew about the events and projects we were inviting teams to join.
Member of Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup
Kyriakos was part of the Mussel Foot Protein team. Initially focusing on researching through the bibliography of the MFP and purification methods to excise inclusion bodies and helped to write the protocols. He further helped out with structural modelling, working with softwares such as GROMACS MD, CHARMM-GUI, and Phyre-2 to produce a structural model for our mussel foot protein, Pvfp-5β, while working alongside other team members and experts in the bioinformatics field.
Leon Yong Kang Zhang:
Co-Head of the Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup
Leon is part of the mussel foot protein team. His roles included researching the biochemistry of the mussel foot protein such as the adhesion mechanism between the protein and substrate surface and also the auto-oxidation of the protein in physiological conditions. He extensively researched several oxidative countermeasures but advocated for the use of boronate complexes as catechol protecting groups. Furthermore, he also researched into possible methods for polymerisation and researched the reaction mechanism behind tyrosinase catalysed polymerisation. He also designed the polymerisation protocol based off of current literature and tailored it to specific steps our bioadhesive-covered scaffold required. Lastly, he is also a member of the entrepreneurship team and explored ways in which we could scale up our project and also researched into any conflicting patents.
Head of Design
Liyamu was part of the Spinal Cord Injury Team, where she looked into the physical properties of the spinal cord, the forces acting on it and the spine, as well as the degradation rate of PCL. She also researched the differences between a healthy and injured spinal cord. Furthermore, Liyamu was part of the Design Team and contributed to deciding on the colour scheme for the team. She also assisted in illustrating and coding the wiki.In particular, she was responsible for overseeing and coding the Spinal Cord Pathophysiology page. She was responsible for animating and editing the promotional video and audio, along with providing one of the voiceovers.
Co-Head of the Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup
Luke was primarily a part of the mussel foot protein team where he played a large role in researching and understanding Pvfp-5β throughout all stages of the project. This included the prevention of oxidation of DOPA, polymerisation of the protein, and the binding of Pvfp-5β to PCL. He was also involved in the production of the protocols. As well as this, he was also a part of the SCI/3D Bioprinting aspects of the project, being the main source of communication between the MFP team and the other sub-teams. Here, he researched into enhancing neurite growth within the scaffold, looking at how the microenvironment of the site of injury may affect the bioadhesive, and the various ways of optimising neurite growth alongside the MFP bioadhesive. He was also involved in researching and evaluating the microarchitecture of the scaffold, the forces within the spine, as well as completing the preliminary research into modelling degradation of the scaffold in SCI applications. Luke was the voice of our promotional video, and he also edited the various translation audios for the video. As a part of public engagement, human practices, and collaboration, Luke produced infographics for instagram relating to MFP, took part in several meetings with academics and specialists, discussing the scaffold design and the SCI microenvironment, as well as meeting with other iGEM teams. Lastly, he contributed to the inclusivity of the project by aiding with the production of Biologix, and alongside other members of the team involved with design, helped design and code the team wiki.
Head of Education & Science Communication
Morgan worked primarily as part of the Mussel Foot Protein team. She researched the biochemical properties of the protein, including auto oxidation prevention with chlorocatechol groups, polymerisation methods via tyrosinase, and helped write the protocols. Morgan also worked with the bioprinting team, linking it with MFP. Here, she worked to help determine the optimal macrostructure for the spinal scaffold and researched how the MFP may interact with the different architectures. She also participated in spinal cord dissections at KCL Medical School, to deepen the understanding of the pathological condition, and treatment options of SCI. As a member of the Design team she helped design and brainstorm promotional figures, infographics, and videos on the Reneverate social media channels, and was the voice of the Bulgarian translation in the promotional video. In addition Morgan participated in the Inclusivity team, where she helped create synthetic biology awareness through presentations, infographics, and the creation of the Biologix Competition.
Member of Mussel Foot Protein Subgroup
Peter was a supporting member of the Mussel Foot Protein team. Started by researching MFP, purification methods and their implementation when possible. He then joined Kyriakos and Harsh as part of the Structural Modelling team, working with the bioinformatics software GROMACS MD, to produce a structural model for our mussel foot protein, Pvfp-5β, while working alongside them, other team members and experts in the bioinformatics field. In addition to this, Peter contributed to getting the team some funding through sponsors.
Co-Head of Dry Lab and Bioprinting Subgroup
Remy was the Co-Head of Dry Lab and bioprinting. He was responsible for the selection of the scaffold material, the Finite Element Analysis simulation of the proposed scaffold designs and the selection of the final scaffold design. As well as this, Remy segmented a patient’s scan to implement it into the scaffold, designed and implemented a cough simulation to further validate the model and co-wrote Renervate’s open source degradation program. He also researched neurite outgrowth within the scaffold, the microenvironment of the site of injury, the macro and micro architectures. Furthermore, he played a role in the creation of the promotional video, the design team (coding and supervising the contribution, engineering, model overview, scaffold modelling, and pcl degradation pages) and the inclusivity team where he helped found the Biologix competition. Lastly, he took part in Public Engagement and Human Practices which included co-writing an article on bioprinting for The Oracle (KCL), creating scientific infographics, creating YouTube videos, presenting talks about synthetic biology and conducting interviews with a number of researchers to further the team’s knowledge of bioprinting and scaffolds.
Member of the Spinal Cord Injury, Design, and Inclusivity Subgroups
Shams was part of the spinal cord injury and design teams and contributed to inclusivity research. She looked at combinatorial approaches to treating SCI, such as the seeding of stem cells throughout the scaffold and the use of proteases. As part of the inclusivity team, she researched increasing accessibility to laboratories and educational settings. In addition, she took part in the creation of the promotional video’s voice over and subtitles, making scientific infographics, designing the wiki, and gained valuable experience in public engagement, entrepreneurship and human practices by attending various events and presenting in some talks.
Member of the Spinal Cord Injury and Inclusivity Subgroups
Sonya was primarily a part of Spinal Cord Injury team and was responsible for the characterisation of the sub-acute and chronic stages of the spinal cord injury, including the development of neuroinflammation, syringomyelia and the glial scar. Additionally, she conducted research into the existing options of SCI management, the potential use of proteases in SCI treatment and the delivery of stem cells to the site of injury via the biomaterial scaffold. She worked alongside the Inclusivity Team and Design team to assist with creating scientific infographics for KCL iGEM social platform, designing the Wiki and doing voiceover for the promotional video.
Primary PI: Dr Anatoliy Markiv
Director of Distance Learning Programmes and Academic Lead for Technology Enhanced Learning.
Dr Markiv served as our Primary Instructor throughout the year. Without his in-depth knowledge of iGEM, we would not have been able to succeed and learn all we have from our iGEM project. We really appreciate all of the input we have received and the guidance in how to best approach the medal criteria and requirements. He guided us with our administrative tasks and deadlines, and ensured that we kept on top of our work.
Secondary PI: Dr Alison Snape
Reader in Bioscience Education, Lecturer in Biochemistry and Biomedical Science at King’s College London.
Dr Snape served as our Secondary Instructor throughout the year. Without her support, this project would not have been possible and we would not have been able to participate in the 2020 competition. We are beyond grateful for all that she has done for us this year. Dr Snape helped us secure funding to financially support our registration fees. She also has been crucial in the organisation of our project and ensured that we stayed on track throughout the year. We are additionally grateful for her help in securing us opportunities to present our research.
Instructor: Professor Annalisa Pastore
UK DRI Group Leader and Professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
Professor Pastore served as our Instructor throughout the summer. After reading the paper she authored alongside Dr Alfano, “Recombinant mussel protein Pvfp-5β: a potential tissue bioadhesive”, we got in touch with Professor Pastore to ask her questions about Pvfp-5β. We eventually came to work very closely with her and Dr Alfano, and received a great deal of guidance regarding the protein and its applications as a therapeutic bioadhesive. We are beyond glad to have received her guidance and can’t wait to work with her in the lab next year.
Advisor: Dr Caterina Alfano
Group Leader in Structural Biology and Biophysics at Fondazione Ri.MED, Palermo Italy
Dr Alfano served as an Advisor throughout the summer. We were put in touch with Dr Alfano through Professor Pastore, and we are so happy that we were. She provided us with crucial knowledge about our protein isoform, helped us in the design of our BioBricks, and allowed us to develop a gene expression system that would carry out in vitro polymerisation. We can’t wait to work further with her next summer!
Human Practices & Support
Thank you to everyone who helped us out with this project. Renervate would not have had been possible without the guidance and insight of those mentioned below. We really appreciate the time taken by those who assisted us after we reached out to them regarding Renervate.
Dr Amanda Tran:
Brain and Spinal Cord Regeneration Scientist at Seattle Children's Hospital
Provided information on the implementation of growth factors on our scaffold, and redirected us to relevant medical experts to validate our project design.
PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at King’s College London.
Mentored us on how to use ITK Snap for segmentation, sourcing MRI/CT images and using CAD software such as Meshmixer.
Dr Anne McKee:
Senior Lecturer in Medical Education
Dr McKee offered our team guidance with creating surveys and carrying out social sciences-based research. Through her assistance, we were able to ensure that we undertook an ethical approach towards working with members of the public. This was especially important in our interactions with the Spinal Cord Injury Association.
Dr Anne Meyer:
Associate Professor at the University of Rochester Department of Biology
Provided us with assistance regarding our pilot study into representation within the iGEM community and also offered a great deal of advice for the creation of our Biologix Competition. Overall, she contributed to how we designed our project to be more accessible in several ways.
Founder of f=f
Gave us direction regarding the creation of scaffold pores within Grasshopper.
Dr Andrew Beavil:
Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biophysics at King’s College London.
Provided access to YASARA software, as well as advised us in how to move forward regarding protein analysis and determination of protein fitness function.
Bachelor’s student at the University of Calgary and the Co-Founder and CFO at yOIL Technologies.
We got in touch with Andrew after watching the After iGEM Seminar he hosted this summer regarding iGAM. He provided us with immeasurable help in our physicochemical analysis of our protein and adapted the iGAM script to our particular protein.
Dr Bryn Martin:
Vice President - Research, Precision Delivery, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Sciences at Alcyone Lifesciences, Inc.
Provided us with DICOM files for patients with SCI.
PhD student at the University of Leeds.
She directed us on our initial attempt of our protein modelling using the GROMACS package.
Dr Erika Földesné Dudás:
Postdoctoral Researcher at King’s College London.
She provided guidance in the dry lab by editing our PDB files before Molecular Dynamics simulations, and the steps that followed.
Bachelors student in MEng Computer Science at the University of Warwick
Jack generously helped us with elements of our Wiki, and was fundamental in ensuring our Side Navigation Bar does not overextend into the Footer.
Dr Jack Lee:
Lecturer at King’s College London.
Advised us on the process of degradation and how the macro-architecture will affect it.
Dr Jacob Koffler:
Assistant Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego.
Advised us on degradation rate, the advantages and disadvantages of PCL and the best way to create pores.
Dr. Jaime Lazuen Alcón:
Chief of the Fundamental Biology Service of the Unit of Flux Cytometry, Centre of Scientific Instrumentation of the University of Granada.
He advised us in ways to create our scaffold and informed us about clinical methods to prove our protein is non-toxic.
Professor Jim Sterling:
Professor at Keck Graduate Institute.
We sought Professor Sterling’s expertise to better understand the regulations that surround the production of Class III medical devices. Through his help, we were able to better understand FDA regulations.
Dr Ladislav Hovan:
Postdoctoral researcher at Protein Dynamics Group of the Francesco L. Gervasio Lab at University College London.
Provided technical assistance using GROMACS MD.
Dr Luigi Petrone:
Senior Scientist specialising in “Antifouling marine coatings”.
Advised us on ways in which we could prevent auto-oxidation of DOPA residues by chelating DOPA residues with ferric ions. Although we did not go down this route, his advice was still important as it introduced us to the concept of catechol protecting groups.
Dr Mathis Riehle:
Director of the Centre for Cell Engineering at the University of Glasgow.
Providing us information on PCL as a biomaterial; its limitations and advantages compared to other materials, a combined PCL-chitosan approach, the immune response and the impact of using ECM proteins alongside the material.
Dr Mark Pfuhl:
Reader in Cardiovascular Structural Biology at King’s College London
Provided us with help regarding protein engineering and directed our future experimental workflow. He provided us with an understanding of what methodologies we could carry out mutagenesis studies with, with the aim of improving protein stability and adhesion.
Dr. Novak Elliott:
Adjunct lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Curtin University.
Advised us on how to model the scaffold with a simulated cough and what the porosity of our scaffold should be. Also, provided information on the pathophysiology of syringomyelia.
Mr. Pavlos Panteliadis MD:
Consultant spinal surgeon at Guy’s and St. Thomas' Hospitals in London.
He provided guidance on the anatomy of the spinal cord and the procedures involved in spinal cord surgery.
Dr. Prashant Jha:
Head of Affordable Medical Technologies at King’s College London.
He deepened our understanding about the specific procedures involved in the approval of implantable medical devices in the UK, and advised us in the next steps we should follow for the approval of our device.
Dr. Rachel Sparks:
Lecturer at King’s College London.
She deepened our understanding about the general procedures involved in the approval of medical devices in the UK.
Spinal Cord Injury Association (Weekly Cafe):
User-led spinal cord injuries charity.
We were invited to sit in on their weekly cafe where we were advised on how patients manage their injuries through proper support networks and holistic therapies, as well as the group’s overall consensus on the representation of spinal cord injuries in the media.
Dr Travis Schlappi:
Assistant professor at Keck Graduate Institute.
We sought Dr Schlappi’s expertise to assist us in understanding regulatory pathways for Class III medical devices.
Dr Trevor Coward:
Reader / Consultant in Maxillofacial & Craniofacial Rehabilitation at King’s College London.
Provided us with information of the bioprinters that are available for use in the King's College London Dentistry Department.
Dr Zin Khaing:
Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington.
Provided information on the glial scar and it’s microenvironment; discussing on the extension of the glial scar over time and how we should counter these effects, as well as advising us on the properties of our biomaterial and appropriate surgical procedures.