Catz students go for Gold at iGEM competition

The 2017 Oxford iGEM team, which includes two St Catz students, returned from the annual competition in Boston, USA, with a Gold medal and  the extremely competitive award for Best Diagnostics Project in the undergraduate category. The iGEM competition challenges interdisciplinary teams of students to spend the summer working on applying Synthetic Biology to address real world issues.

The Oxford team, comprising of third year Catz Biochemists Zoe Catchpole and Alissa Hummer and 10 other Oxford students from Biochemistry, Engineering, Biology and Medicine, focused their project on developing a cheap and reliable diganostic for Chagas disease. Chagas disease is a parasitic neglected tropical disease which affects millions of people in South America – if diagnosed early, it can be treated, but can result in fatality if treatment is delayed.

The project culminated in Boston, where the team presented their design and results to over 3000 people in competition with more than 300 teams from across the world.

Of the experience, Alissa Hummer (2015, Biochemistry) told us: “Taking part in iGEM was a truly unique and rewarding experience for me. The entire team put in enormous amounts of work throughout the entire year to create a fully developed project complete with not only mathematical modelling and experimental evidence, but also integrated human practices, public engagement, and applied design. Whilst every team member contributed to all aspects, I was most heavily involved in the laboratory work, creation of an epidemiological model, and design of the website and poster.

“We are extremely proud and grateful to have won a Gold medal, been awarded the ‘Best Diagnostics Project’ in the undergraduate category, and been nominated for an additional 5 prizes (Best Wiki, Best Presentation, Best Integrated Human Practices, Best Model, and Best Applied Design). It was amazing to be recognized for our work and to bring greater awareness to neglected tropical diseases.”

We extend our warmest congratulations to Alissa, Zoe, and the rest of the Oxford team!