iGEM UZurich 2020


Swiss iGEM Meetup

With two other Swiss teams participating in the iGEM competition this year, we decided early on that we would like to hold a meetup together. In 2019 it was the University of Zurich that hosted a convention for the ETH and EPFL (the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology) team. This year, with both EPFL and UNIL (the University of Lausanne) from Lausanne competing, we decided to move our event to the french-speaking part of Switzerland.

Beyond the scientific exchange and discussions about the competition, we profited strongly from the casual ambience. The possibility to meet new researchers interested in the applications of synthetic biology was incredibly appreciated, especially since doing it in person was a rarity during times of lockdowns and Zoom meeting.

To ensure safety and distance, a large part of our meetup was held outside. A city tour, barbeque and coffee breaks offered the opportunity to discuss projects but also to small talk. As the highlight and, arguably the most appreciated part of the conference, each team held a presentation. These 20-minute talks included an overview, and a discussion of the experiments and implementations teams were anticipating to do. With feedback from each other, as well as teams from previous years that had joined, we were able to refine our presentation and our pitch.

We have kept close contact with the University of Lausanne and EPFL teams throughout the competition cycle. Their feedback regarding our project has helped to shape it into what we are proudly presenting to you. The Swiss iGEM meetup was a great opportunity, and as we were unable to go to Boston, it was a great compromise that, nonetheless, allowed us to still interact with the iGEM community.

Waste Water Teams

Water safety is a global concern, and iGEM teams from everywhere are finding innovative new approaches to improving water quality. We participated in an internationally connected meetup to discuss the differences in approaches between countries.

As we have worked with the EAWAG, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, we were able to contribute. Our meeting with a representative from the WHO (World Health Organization) has given us additional insights into the global differences in water safety. To read more about how these sources shaped our project please refer to our Human Practices.

Meanwhile for the wastewater team collaboration, as we were not as involved with water treatment, but rather water testing and sampling, we were not as active in that aspect of the discussion. Nonetheless, we took great inspiration from the approaches of teams TU Kaiserslautern, Aalto-Helsinki, Stuttgart, Brno and TU Darmstadt. Particularly the possibility to discuss the differences between countries, events and field-relevant literature was incredibly valuable to us.

UNIL Business Plan

The ideas birthed in the iGEM progress reach far beyond the lab bench and the software. Their integration into the real world is crucial for the continuous improvement in research. A team that has fully embraced this interdisciplinary aspect of their project is the UNIL team this year.

We would like to particularly highlight the following aspect of their project: as they are competing with a novel therapeutic approach for cancer treatment, they have created a business plan. This plan is based on the development and implementation of their therapeutic organism. As is, the document includes a stakeholder analysis, background on implementation of pharmaceutics, an explanation and analysis for creating a patent, as well as feedback with experts from industry and the legal field. This mixture between economic and juristic applications of an iGEM interest sparked our interest.

Beyond the scientific background, the author of the business plan, Johanna Zavaleta, has put extensive time into the research of entrepreneurship and economic analysis. From our side, Franka Butzbach dedicated time to read through drafts of the document and offered new insights. She is pursuing a minor in business administration, which made it really valuable for her to read this business plan.

Several discussions about the plan’s content and its goals were conducted by them, and to us it was an exciting journey. As our track, and frankly our projects, differ, we got a new insight into different aspects of iGEM beyond our own work.

Please refer to the following link to read more about the UNIL’s analysis and future implementation of their iGEM project.