iGEM 2014 Manufacturing Track

Manufacturing is already an area of demonstrable success in synthetic biology. It is built on diverse history of previous work in metabolic pathway engineering with work such as the production of human insulin using recombinant DNA technologies, starting in the early 1980's. The most well known current example is likely Amyris' engineering of the antimalarial drug precursor, artemisinic acid. Other companies are demonstrating the production of transportation fuels using algal systems in photobioreactors on non-arable land.

Manufacturing will also play a big role in tissue engineering through the production of new skin, organs and other medical substrates to treat disease and injury. While these problems may seem like medical technologies, scaling them up from the bench to the clinic will very much require innovations in manufacturing.

The potential for the manufacturing track in iGEM is immense. Biological systems can be used to make products under conditions that were previously impossible. Many enzymes can achieve reaction conditions in a tube that would otherwise require high temperatures, pressures or expensive substrates to reproduce using chemical engineering methods. Another possibility is micro-scale production of drugs, therapeutics or other high-value molecules. iGEM teams who choose to work on manufacturing have a wide range of possible projects and many large challenges to overcome.

You can find images and abstracts of the winning Manufacturing teams from 2011 to 2013 in the page below. Also, follow the links below to see projects from all the Manufacturing track teams.

Recent Manufacturing projects to win best in track

Winning Manufacturing project in 2013 Undergrad: Plasticity: Engineering microbes to make environmentally friendly plastics from non-recyclable waste

Project abstract: Accumulation of waste represents a considerable problem to humanity. Over the next 50 years, the global community will produce approximately 2 trillion tonnes of waste, or 2.5 times the weight of Mount Everest. Traditionally, mixed non-recyclable waste is sent to landfill or for incineration, both of which result in environmental damage. The detrimental effects are perpetrated by the plastic degradation into toxic byproducts and the production of greenhouse gases by these processes. As an alternative we propose to upcycle this mixed waste into the bioplastic poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (P3HB) to create a closed loop recycling system. Our engineered E. coli will operate within sealed bioreactors. In the future we picture the use of our system in a variety of contexts as part of our M.A.P.L.E. (Modular And Plastic Looping E.coli) system.

Winning Manufacturing project in 2012: Arachnicoli

Utah State

Project abstract : Spider silk is the strongest known biomaterial, with a large variety of applications. These applications include artificial tendons and ligaments, biomedical sutures, athletic gear, parachute cords, air bags, and other yet discovered products which require a high tensile strength with amazing extendibility. Spiders however cannot be farmed because they are territorial and cannibalistic. Thus, an alternative to producing spider silk must be found. We aim to engineer spider silk genes into E. coli to produce this highly valuable product. Spider silk production in bacteria has been limited due to the highly repetitive nature of the spider silk amino acids in the protein. To overcome this obstacle we are using various synthetic biology techniques to boost spider silk protein production and increase cellular fitness. After successful production, spider silk protein is artificially spun into usable fibers and tested for physical properties.

Winning Manufacturing project 2011: Biofactory


Project abstract: Cornell's 2011 iGEM team has designed a new, scalable, and cell-free method to produce complex biomolecules. Current methods for purification from cellular lysate are expensive and time consuming. Biofactory utilizes modified enzymes, capable of being attached to surfaces, in the creation of a modular microfluidic chip for each enzyme. The surface bonding is performed by the well characterized biotin-avidin mechanism. When combined in series, these chips operate as a linear biochemical pathway for continous flow reactions. Additionally, we engineered E. Coli with the mechanism for light-induced apoptosis to easily lyse cultures producing the necessary enzymes. The resulting lysate is flowed through the microfluidic channels, coating them with the desired enzyme. We believe these methods will reduce unwanted side reactions, and lower the costs of producing bio-pharmaceuticals in the future.