Tracks/New Application


iGEM 2014 New Application Track

The New Applications tracks in iGEM is possibly the most difficult to describe. Without using the term "catch-all", there is a certain diversity of projects that is not found as much in other tracks. New Application teams work to create novel, forward thinking projects and innovative ideas that don't fit into conventional paradigms.

New Application is an apt description for a track that doesn't have a common problem, or focus tying all projects together. It is the novelty of ideas and approach in investigating a question that may never have previously been examined that qualifies a project in the New Application track.

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

Recent New Application projects to win best in track

Winning New Application projects in 2013 Undergrad: Wormboys

Valencia Biocampus

Project abstract: Bacteria are essential in biotechnology, but they can hardly move. Nematodes, such a C. elegans, are fast crawling organisms, but they have limited biotechnological applications. By combining the best from both organisms, we present the first artificial synthetic symbiosis with bacteria engineered to ride on worms, which concentrate in hotspots where bacteria perform a desired biotechnological process, such as bioplastic (PHA) production. We have engineered Pseudomas putida with a whole operon that allows the formation of a biofilm on the worm. Biofilm formation is swhitched on and off depending on the media, and thus bacteria get on and off the worm like travellers on a bus. We have also engineered a third partner, E. coli, to express an interference RNA that promotes clumping. Taken together, our artificial symbiosis allows biotechnologically interesting bacteria to travel on nematodes, reach nutrient-rich biomass spots and maximize the efficiency of biotechnological fermentations in heterogenous substrates.

Winning New Application projects in 2013 Overgrad: Engineering synthetic microbial consortia


Project abstract Bacterial consortia offer a great benefit for synthetic biology due to the ability to perform complex tasks by splitting the whole reaction into smaller reactions and share the task among different specialized strains. Also, a self-regulating bacterial culture with intra consortial dependencies offers great advances in biosafety. To shut down the whole bacterial consortium, only on strain has to be eliminated. We engineer three different E. coli strains to grow in a consortium exploiting different Quorum Sensing systems. Each strain maintains a constitutive expression of an inactive transcription activator (LuxR, LasR or RhlR). Inducers are synthesized by different synthases (LuxI, LasI or RhlI) that are each expressed in one strain and subsequently secreted into the medium. Once taken up by a cell, the inducers bind to the corresponding, inactive transcription factors to render them functional. As a result, an antibiotic resistance under the control of an inducible promoter is expressed.

Winning New Application project in 2012: Beadzillus: Fundamental BioBricks for Bacillus subtilis and spores as a platform for protein display

LMU Munich

Project abstract : We chose to work with Bacillus subtilis to set new horizons and offer tools for this model organism to the Escherichia coli-dominated world of iGEM. Therefore, we created a BacillusBioBrickBox (BBBB) composed of reporter genes, defined promoters, as well as reporter, expression, and empty vectors in BioBrick standard. B. subtilis naturally produces stress resistant endospores which can germinate in response to suitable environmental conditions. To highlight this unique feature using the BBBB, we developed Sporobeads. These are spores displaying fusion proteins on their surface. As a proof of principle, we fused GFP to the outermost layer. Expanding this idea, we designed a Sporovector to easily create any Sporobead imaginable. Because the Sporobeads must be biologically safe and stable vehicles, we prevented germination by knocking out involved genes and developed a Suicideswitch turned on in case of germination. With the project Beadzillus, our team demonstrates the powerful nature of B. subtilis.

Winning New Application project 2011: (Tie) Brown-Stanford and ZJU-China

Mars BioTools: Synthetic Biology for Space Exploration

Project abstract: "One of the major challenges of space exploration is the enormous cost of launching materials, limiting the size and affordability of long-term missions. Synthetic Biology can revolutionize space exploration and settlement by providing a microbial platform for catalyzing critical reactions and manufacturing essential products. Biological devices have a major advantage over classical machines: the ability to self-replicate and regenerate. Project RegoBrick uses bacteria to cement Martian and Lunar regolith simulant into a concrete-like compound. Extraterrestrial settlements will be able to use such a process to build structures using resources readily available in the environment, instead of having to transport materials from Earth. Project PowerCell develops a universal energy source from engineered cyanobacteria, which generate carbon and nitrogenous nutrients from sunlight and air and secrete them to sustain other microbes. This system will allow future settlers to transform resources on other planets into fuel, food, drugs, and other useful products."


Project abstract: Rainbofilm is a stratified expression system in biofilm, a self-organized module extensible for various needs. Researchers found a vertical oxygen gradient establishes in the biofilm. Such property allows us to use oxygen sensitive promoters to artificially induce differentiated functions through the spatial distribution of cells. Thus, the multi-step reaction can be processed within the different layers of the biofilm. The biofilm and its layered structure form spontaneously. Also biofilm has the natural resistance to high levels of toxin. These two properties render the Rainbofilm a convenient stable system for bio-production and bio-sensor. The system can cater to different needs simply by changing downstream genes. One possible application is ethanol production. The cellulose is degraded to monose from the bottom to the middle layer, and the ethanol is produced and secreted in the surface to minimize the toxicity to the inner cells.