Rare disease research in the spotlight

Rare disease research in the spotlight

An exciting research project into a genetic disorder has earned a St Catz student a science award. Hannah Webb (2014, Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry) is part of the Oxford team in the 2016 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition. Their project, which focusses on developing a treatment for Wilson’s Disease, won the gold medal at the iGEM ‘Giant Jamboree’ in Boston in October.  
 
Wilson’s Disease is a condition that leads to a build up of excess copper in the body and can result in severe organ damage. “Current treatments must be taken four times a day, have severe side effects, and are vastly overpriced”, explains Hannah. “Our goal is to generate probiotic bacteria capable of occupying the small intestine, containing a system we have designed to ‘mop-up’ excess copper”.
 
Hannah's efforts were partly funded by St Catherine's College. She was awarded £500 from the Master's Fund to help cover some of the travel costs the team incurred. The iGEM competition attracts entries from over 300 teams worldwide specialising in applied synthetic biology. In addition to winning the gold medal, the Oxford team were nominated for all four special awards: Best Therapeutics Project, Best Wiki, Best Presentation, and Best Education and Public Engagement.