iGEM is a worldwide community that continues to expand and strengthen international bonds.Therefore, we embarked on science and non-science related collaborations with iGEM teams around the world to share information, have open discussions on SynBio, and have fun!

During the course of our iGEM experience, we have collaborated closely with teams from Vienna and Austin, who have also worked with bacteriophages, in developing experiments and models. With Vienna, a wet lab partnership was established as we had a shared objective; producing a compound using engineered phages as a delivery vector. Engineering and selection methods, safety concerns, and experimental protocols were shared. With Austin, a dry lab partnership was established with the focus point on maximising heterologous protein production through modelling. Simulations were performed with each other’s data and models. Further detail is shown in the Partnerships page.

The World Of SynBio

One of our goals this year was to educate people about SynBio and the possibilities it has to offer. As it is a new discipline within biology and engineering, the extent to which SynBio can be used to solve problems may not be straightforward for the general public. That is why, together with other iGEM teams, we produced an informative video to show people what can be achieved with SynBio. 49 teams from over the world explained the problem they are trying to solve and the way they are trying to solve this.

Co-organiser of BeNeLux Meet-up

We were happy to be co-organizers of the iGEM BeNeLux meet-up. Given current circumstances, this meet-up took place online. iGEM Groningen, the instigators of the meet-up, decided to spread it over four half days (22nd till 25th of July), and invited us to co-organize the meet-up together with iGEM Maastricht and iGEM Amsterdam.

Figure 1. First meeting with representatives from iGEM Groningen, Maastricht and TU Delft to plan the meet-up with guidance of the iGEM Europe Ambassador, Ojas Tulsyan.

During this meetup we hosted a webinar on bacteriophages. We explained what phages are, how to work with them in the lab, how to engineer them, and how phages have been used by previous iGEM teams. We invited the founder of the Dutch Phage Bank, dr. Stan J.J. Brouns, as a keynote speaker to have an open discussion about phage therapy with us and other iGEM students. We learned about the promising possibilities, but also the difficulties phage therapy faces. During the discussion we learnt what comes to mind in other iGEM students when talking about (engineered) phages. Through a Mentimeter voting platform, we saw the change in opinions as the size of some words increased or decreased. The word dangerous started out being a large one. Yet toward the end of the presentation, the word ‘virus’ and ‘therapy’ succeeded the word ‘dangerous’.

Figure 2. Words that came to mind in other iGEM students when talking about (engineered) bacteriophages. Larger words mean more people relate this word to bacteriophages.

During the meet-up, we also got the chance to present our project and receive feedback from other iGEM students as well as guest iGEM judges from previous years.

Making “Phage Fred in search of his friend” more accessible

We have written a book for children aged 4-6 called 'Phage Fred in search of his friend'. The 26 paged children's book portrays phage Fred that is looking for a friend. He finds multiple bacteria in his journey but none of them are a match. Until he meets Bas the bacterium. Fred can hug Bas seeing as this phage is specific to this bacterium. In essence, the book teaches children about the existence of bacteria and bacteriophages, the fact that they are everywhere, and that there is specificity involved; Fred only has one friend.

We loved the idea of sharing this book with the iGEM team in Montpellier and our partnering friends in Vienna and Austin. They have also worked with phages throughout these months, making it great outreach material for them as well. The iGEM team in Montpellier translated it to French, and the iGEM team Vienna translated it to German and read it at elementary school in Brünnerstraße.

Figure 3. Children from the elementary school in Brünnerstraße reading “Phage Fred in search of his friend” in German, translated by iGEM team Vienna.



Reaching more children

CIDosis (UCPH iGEM) has written a children’s book about bacterial transformations as part of their teaching programme. We wished to help them reach more children and decided to translate their book to Dutch. In turn, they sent us a translated script of our book.

MSP Maastricht Proceedings journal initiative

iGEM MSP Maastricht collected research papers of all iGEM teams willing to participate and create a Proceedings Journal. This was a great opportunity for teams to train academic writing and publish their work. There was a choice between writing a piece or conducting an interview. We chose the latter. In the interview, we told them about our project, why we chose it and how we have managed to stay motivated despite the COVID-19 measures.

SDG visual initiative iGEM Egypt

AUC-Egypt started an initiative to make an album featuring iGEMers’ contributions in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs); focussing on the small things, showing that everyone can participate from their homes in the SDGs.

PHOCUS is designed to be safe to the environment and is a more sustainable option than current (chemical) pesticides against locusts. This supports SDG 12. Controlling locust plagues, and thus keeping locusts from destroying a nation’s food supply and causing famine, contributes to increased food security and reducing hunger among the population. This supports SDG 2.

iGEM team GW_DC collage

To show we are one large community, the iGEM team from Washington created a collage with several team logos. Their collage symbolises that we are all united towards one cause: making this world a better and more habitable place. Can you spot our logo on their beautiful collage?

Figure 4. Collage made by iGEM team DW_DC, recreating a light bulb, symbolizing our distinct ideas for our overall goal