Collaborations have been conducted in a different fashion from that of previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of our collaborations are achieved through online communications. This year, we had online conversations with 6 other iGEM teams, in which we presented to each other the projects and provided valuable suggestions to improve our research progressed.
On July 20, 2020, we got in touch with the iGEM team of Ocean University of China. Through online group chat, we learned about each other’s project profiles and established experimental cooperation intentions. As a result, the cooperation between two universities this year has been very smooth. Both the exchange of project contents and the experimental cooperation intentions have been steadily processed.
At 6 PM on July 21, 2020, we communicated online with the members of the iGEM team in Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University. The meeting lasted about one hour, and 16 students from the two universities participated in the meeting and shared their opinions mutually.
The first half of the meeting was the introduction of our project, and we discussed and answered their questions. The FAFU_China team asked questions about targeted evolutionary experiments, detection time, biosafety, device recycling, and environmental factors. In terms of the directed evolution experiment, members of the FAFU_China team indicated that they once hoped to screen ethanol-tolerant fungi by using the directed evolution technology; however, due to the complexity of the procedure, they did not carry out further research, hoping to get inspiration from our device and ideas.
In the second half of the meeting, the FAFU_China team introduced their projects to us. During the interaction, we mainly asked questions about the specific process of material pretreatment and lignin degradation. In response to our questions, the members of FAFU_China team gave us detailed explanations and supplementary materials. At the same time, we also discussed the source of inspiration and unique advantages of their projects. Through this sharing activity, we also learned the purpose and significance of their projects related to multi-chassis co-cultivation.
The interaction allowed us to improve our understanding of the projects from the two teams. Meanwhile, after extensive discussion and communication, the team members from both sides expressed that we would keep in touch with each other in the follow-up experiments to communicate and make progress together.
At 3 PM on July 31, 2020, we communicated online with the students of the NEU_China team from Northeastern University. The meeting lasted about one hour, and 13 students from two universities participated in the meeting and shared their opinions.
In the first half of the meeting, our team introduced our project and answered their questions. The members of the NEU_China team asked questions about the targeted evolutionary experiments, gel composition and function, installation material, etc. They indicated that they were inspired by our project and would like to use our trehalose gel to immobilize their engineered bacteria.
In the second half of the meeting, we discussed the project of the NEU_China team. During the discussion, we mainly asked questions about experimental pathways, logic gate design, and engineered bacteria application mode. In response to our inquiries, the members of the NEU_China team gave us a detailed explanation and supplementary materials. Additionally, we discussed the application environment and unique advantages of their projects.
After discussion, the team members from both sides expressed that we gained a lot of knowledge and would continue to improve our projects in the following months. We also hoped that we could keep in touch with each other all the time to share the project ideas and progress to achieve desired goals in this year's competition!
At 4 PM on August 5, 2020, we communicated with the students of the QHFZ_China team from Tsinghua University High School online. The meeting lasted about one hour, and 14 students from the two teams participated in the meeting and shared their opinions.
In the first half of the meeting, the QHFZ_China team described their projects and also interviewed us about the potential applicability of their projects, including the commercialization and suggestions for any optimization. At the same time, we also discussed several front-line technologies.
In the second half of the meeting, we introduced the project of our NEFU_China team. In the course of interactions, they mainly questioned about the impacts of the hydrogel system and devices. In view of their inquiries, we explained in detail and supplemented with additional information. At the same time, they also gave us their suggestions.
Finally, the QHFZ_China team also hoped to exchange views on experiments, and expected that we could use bacterium preservation technology to promote the project. Finally, we wished each other to get good results in this year's competition!
At 18:00 on August 18, 2020, we had an online meeting with Beijing University of Chemical Technology. The first part of the meeting consisted of our project presentation. In this session, two students from the NEFU_China team, Song Danjie and Xu Hao, introduced this year's competition topics, followed by the topic content introduced by the BUCT students. Through the detailed explanation of the BUCT students, we learned that they attempted to handle the environmental problems caused by cyanobacteria in their projects of this year. They innovatively used new chassis organisms to accomplish the purpose of killing cyanobacteria. At the same time, the BUCT team also expressed their hope to solve the environmental problems of cyanobacteria. For this purpose, they wanted to use the special feature of lysogenic bacteria to change the internal genes of cyanobacteria and hoped their study could effectively solve this universal environmental problem.
After discussion of the projects of BUCT, we realized that their project was not only an innovative idea, but also a practical design. After the introduction session, we entered a fierce discussion session. Qinghua Li shared our directed evolution part and experimental verification in detail. Meanwhile, we also exchanged experience in the HP cooperation with the BUCT team leader. Both parties believed that this kind of online project exchanges would facilitate collaborations among different universities.
At 14:00 on August 27, 2020, we got contact with the TJUSLS_China team from Tianjin University through an online meeting. We interviewed the instructor of the TJUSLS_China at the beginning. We learned that plastic pollution is one of the most serious environmental problems at present. Additionally, the micro plastics with diameters less than 5 mm formed by various physical, chemical and biological actions have become one of the widespread pollutions. PETase, discovered by a Japanese team in 2016 in a thermophilic bacterium, stands out due to its prominent capability in degrading PET (polyethylene glycol terephthalate) and high crystallinity that other cutinases and lipases cannot achieve. To increase the degrading efficiency of PETase, the thermal stability and binding efficiency of the enzyme is still the hotspot topics of many research groups. After the introduction, the instructor of the TJUSLS_China gave us a detailed description of the progress and future perspective of their projects.
The second part of the meeting was our project presentation. We also shared our experience in using different software for molecular docking simulation and virtual screening of enzyme mutations. After that, we also exchanged our experience in building the wiki and modeling. Finally, we shared our project progress, experimental plans and advice with each other. This online communication was mutually beneficial process, which promoted the project progresses of both teams.