$~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ \newcommand{\MyColi}{{\small Mighty\hspace{0.12cm}Coli}} \newcommand{\Stabi}{\small Stabi}$ $\newcommand{\EColi}{\small E.coli} \newcommand{\SCere}{\small S.cerevisae}\\[0cm] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ \newcommand{\PI}{\small PI}$ $\newcommand{\Igo}{\Large\mathcal{I}} \newcommand{\Tgo}{\Large\mathcal{T}} \newcommand{\Ogo}{\Large\mathcal{O}} ~$ Example of a hierarchical menu in CSS

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- Université Libre de Bruxelles -

$Brussels$ $Games$ $Festival$


We participated to this event in order to tackle the issue of the lack of information available on bioindustries and biotechnologies in the civil society. The event was a success, and we hope that we managed to give to people some understanding of the nature and possibilities of Mighty Coli and synthetic biology in general. We also made sure that people understood which issues were raised by synbio and which were not.

The second edition of the Brussels Games Festival (BGF) took place on the 15, 16 & 17 August and gathered more than 3000 participants for an event on the theme of board and role-playing games. It is an opportunity for game creators to advertise their inventions, and for actors of the game community to reach their public directly

Picture 1 : A BGF volunteer instructing a child how to play a board game.

We were assigned to the “Games and society” section of the BGF by highlighting the ludic dimension of the iGEM competition and the similarities between Biobrick construction and Lego™ constructions. We created "Bactéries : Mission Survie" (Bacteria : Survival Mission), a board game on the thematic of microbiology and molecular biology. We talked about our iGEM project while explaining the rules of our board game to players. If they were receptive, we then talked over the subjects of bioindustry, genetic modifications and antibiotic resistance to raise awareness in the matter.

Picture 2 : A family beginning a new game of "Bactéries : Mission Survie".

Our project was a success! More than 50 quizzes about biotechnologies where answered and dozens of people stopped at our stand to play and talk with us, sometimes for more than half an hour. The festival was also featured in the RTBF news (Radio-télévision belge de la communauté française, the main French-speaking Belgian broadcasting organism) where we appeared the same day.

Video 1 : RTBF news broadcasting from the 16 August about the BGF. Our table can be seen from 00'48'' to 01'05''.

Biotechnology survey

The result of our survey about the knowledge of the public in biotechnology, GMO's and bioindustries revealed some interesting results (54 respondents, see the results) :

- 39% of the respondents where in favor of GMOs, 28% against it, and 33% were undecided or thought that a compromise had to be found. We think that this unexpectedly GMO-friendly result comes from the fact that the respondents filled the survey just in front of us and thought we would want them to be in favor of GMOs. And of course, the sample is not random, as it is composed of the kind of people that likes science-themed boardgames...

- One fourth of the respondents did not know that GMOs were used outside of crops (e.g. in research, industry).

- Although 93% of the respondents said that they understood what was a GMO, 44% did not recognize "genetically modified microorganisms that would improve the yield of bioreactors" as GMOs. We see how a small change of context (crops to bioreactor, or plants to microorganisms) is sufficient to confuse a significant proportion of the respondents.

Those three observations taken together, with the assumption that our respondents were a bit above average in their affinity with life sciences (since they were attracted by our biology-themed boardgame), we can safely assume that the general public is indeed neither comfortable nor well informed on the subjet of genetic engineering.

Game description


"You are a bacterium. Your mission: to survive. The big bad human beings released massive quantities of toxic chemicals, known as antibiotics, in order to kill you. To save yourself and your brethren, you will have to find and gather the hallowed relics of your folk: the antibiotic resistance genes !"

Game rules

    Board game for 2 to 6 players

  • The board includes a linear DNA molecule and 4 kinds of plasmids [Pic. 3]. The DNA molecule begins by a condensed chromosome and is composed of an helix skeleton and 4 DNA bases of different colours. The plasmids are closed DNA molecules, represented by 4 discs at the bottom of the board. Each plasmid contains a resistance gene, a replication inhibitor frame and an origin of replication frame. There are 4 kinds of plasmids, each bearing the resistance to an antibiotic (resistance to $\small Ampicilin$, $\small Tetracyclin$, $\small Kanamycin$ and $\small Chloramphenicol$), and each characterized by a different colour corresponding to a DNA base.

  • Picture 3 : The board we created for "Bactéries : Mission Survie".

  • There are 5 petri dishes delivered with the board: one containing several tokens of the 4 colours corresponding to the plasmids and the DNA bases (yellow, orange, dark blue and light blue), and 4 which contain the resistance genes flanked with 2 restrictions sites (HindIII, BamHI or EcoRI, with one Petri dish per antiobiotic) [Pic. 4]. A gene flanked by 2 definite restriction sites is called a Biobrick.

  • Picture 4 : The five dishes, four of them containing antibiotic resistance genes.

  • Each player begins on the condensed chromosome. Each round, one player at a time rolls the 2 dices, choose the dice with the number that suits him the best, and hops the corresponding number of DNA bases on the board. Once he stops on a DNA base, he gets a token of the colour corresponding to the colour of the base he has stopped upon. One can hop from each couple of bases to the following and eventually to switch the direction when the strands turn.
  • Once a player has obtained 2 tokens of the same colour, he must exchange them in order to reach the plasmid of the corresponding colour. He is positioned on the origin of replication (ORI) and wait for his next turn.
  • In order to gain an antibiotic resistance gene, the player has to stop on the corresponding frame. Once he arrives on this frame, he draws a resistance gene in the deck corresponding to the antibiotic of the plasmid. If he stops on the “Replication inhibitor” frame, he must skip his next turn.
  • In order to exit from a plasmid, the player must stop on the ORI frame or play a 2 with one dice, and chose this dice to move (he then exits the plasmid at the end of the turn, after having moved of 2 frames). Playing a 2 represents duplicating the plasmid. Beware: those conditions compel the player to exit the plasmid, even if he has not managed to retrieve the resistance gene yet !
  • In order to win, a player has to collect all 4 resistance genes, and thoses genes must have complementary restriction sites (e.g.: if you draw a EcoRI | Kanamycin | BamHI resistance gene, you can only connect it with another resistance gene that begins by BamHI or ends by EcoRI). You must thus make a giant Biobrick that assembles the 4 antibiotic resistance genes in whatever order allows the restriction site to complement each other [Pic. 5].

  • Picture 5 : Final configuration achieved by a 11 yo child during a game, winning the game with the four resistances collected and assembled against 3 adult opponents. Congratulations!
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