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27 November 2020

Students from Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine win big in iGEM 2020 Competition

An interdisciplinary team of students from various Life Sciences and Biomedical Engineering backgrounds have been recognised at the largest synthetic biology innovation event in the world.

Screenshot of iGEM 2020 Competition winners

International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition is the pioneering organisation of synthetic biology and acts as a launchpad for the industry’s most successful leaders and companies. Each year the iGEM Foundation holds the annual iGEM Competition, the largest synthetic biology event in the world.

Thousands of students take part, all exploring unique applications of synthetic biology and building solutions that can offer positive contributions to their communities. Since iGEM began in 2003, more than 50,000 people have participated.

This year, our King’s College London group, led by Year 3 Biosciences students Stephanie Avraamides and Abigail Conner, and consisting of students across the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine and the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences took home several awards, including a gold medal and ‘The Best Therapeutics’ project award.

Their award-winning project, ‘Renervate’ is focused on improving treatment for spinal cord injury through the design and modelling of a 3D-bioprinted polycaprolactone based scaffolding which contains a novel mussel-foot protein-based bio adhesive coating. The second phase will consist of the wet lab validation and formation of the scaffolding and the protein polymer.

The aim of this project is to outline a holistic, less invasive treatment that reduces the need for surgical intervention. Beyond the scientific element of their work, they also developed Human Practices and a Science Communication Plan.

Furthermore, despite the whole team being undergraduate students, they competed in the overgraduates section for all awards.

It has been a long journey since we started the project, but despite all the challenges particularly in this unusual year, we have had a fantastic outcome.

Gonzalo León González, third year Biomedical Engineering student

Additionally, they were nominated for ‘Best Model’ and ‘Best Supporting Entrepreneurship’. This is a huge success both for the team and the Health Faculties as a whole; congratulations to all for these truly outstanding results.

The students would like to thank their project supervisors, Dr Anatoliy Markiv and Dr Alison Snape, and their scientific advisors, Professor Annalisa Pastore and her collaborator in Italy, Dr Caterina Alfano, for all the support and encouragement.

This is only our third iGEM team, and when we brought them together we knew they had great potential. They have overcome Covid restrictions and really surpassed expectations. The key to their success is collaboration: they have worked incredibly well together and received support from colleagues across the Health Faculties, all of whom we thank. A successor team is already forming and we look forward to more wins next year!

Dr Alison Snape, Head of Teaching Department of Biochemistry

In this story

Anatoliy  Markiv

Director of Distance Learning Programmes and Academic Lead for Technology Enhanced Learning