07 November 2017 – Peshawar, Pakistan – Six students out of a team of twelve undergraduates from different cities of the country and different disciplines take their project to the iGEM world championship taking place in Boston, USA. This will be Pakistan’s second appearance in iGEM, the ‘International Genetically Engineered Machines’, which is the largest synthetic biology competition in the world with over 300 teams participating from all over the world.
Like last year, the team was hosted by Dr Faisal Khan’s research lab at the Institute of Integrative Biosciences, CECOS University, Peshawar and supported by the Directorate of Science and Technology, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
This year’s IGEM Peshawar team worked towards developing a reporter fish – a fish that can detect heavy metal contamination in fresh water and in response to it, change the color of its body. The team have designed and built the genetic (DNA) circuits needed for this function and have tested them in bacterial cells. The team believes this would have a direct impact on the livelihoods of fish farmers and the health of fish consumer across the country.
How did they do it?
With this year’s inter-disciplinary team that included computer scientists and engineers, IGEM Peshawar also designed and developed a digital interface for the biosensor system which they named MAX. MAX is an Arduino-based digital component which can be used by bacterial cells to automatically send the end-user (a fish farmer, for example) text alerts over the mobile phone. This will be the first time a human-bacterial interface will be presented at the competition. ‘Who would have thought a bacterial culture could be plugged into an arduino’ said Dr Faisal Khan, the supervisor of the project. ‘Only inter-disciplinary teams can conceive and test such crazy ideas and that’s the beauty of scientific research in today’s age’ said Dr Khan.
The team consists of 2 girls and 10 boys from cities including Lahore, Attock, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Khyber Agency, Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, making it a diverse group of young scientists from across the country. ‘A lot of credit goes to the Directorate of Science and Technology, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who supported us in embarking on promoting and working in an emerging and cutting edge area of biological sciences. Synthetic Biology promises to be a key player in the global economy and our Institute and University will be trying its best to promote it in Pakistan’ said Prof. Dr. Azzam Ul Asar, Dean, Faculty of Engineering, CECOS University, Peshawar.
What iGEMers Have to Say
Being the only electrical engineer in the team, working with the best undergrad biologists of Pakistan in IGEM Peshawar team was the best experience I ever had. Before starting the IGEM journey I saw a video on bacterial communication and was fascinated by that. Once the idea of MAX was proposed, I was stoked as it gave me an opportunity to work on something that is still new to the field and which could possibly revolutionize the way data is obtained in biology labs.
Omer Zeb, Swabi
Apart from lots of fun, I learned a lot regarding Synthetic Biology. The time I spent with the iGEM family is the most remarkable time I have ever spent. Among 90+ ideas, only this idea of Reporter fish was selected. There was a lot of experience that I got in lab while playing with bacteria and making all this possible. I am very excited to present our achievements at Boston and win Gold Medal this time.
Muhammad Dawood, Kohat
iGEM has not only given me an opportunity to learn and apply bleeding edge technology i.e. Synthetic Biology, here in Pakistan but also educate the community about it. This iGEM journey will now culminate at the Giant Jamboree in Boston and we are excited to present all our labwork and outreach to the global IGEM community. We are hopeful that we will make our country proud.
Hassnain Qasim, Attock
You know that tipping point in your life where you grow up and learn more than you would have in a combined few years? That’s iGEM for me. I think I grew up few years instead of a summer. This journey, that I wish to continue, has taught me more than I learnt on any of my ambassador or exchange programs. I can confidently say that iGEM would remain the best thing that happened to me during my undergraduate.
Ayesha Khan, Nowshera
iGEM has been a life changing experience for me. We worked together as a team to tackle one of the most serious environmental issues we face in the world and it’s been very creative period of my career. Going out and talking to the community with devotion for spreading science was full of excitement. I am very excited to be participating in the Giant Jamboree in Boston where we will be representing Pakistan and putting it on the iGEM map once again.
Hassan Raza, Faisalabad
The entire Biology Decoded Team wishes iGEM Peshawar best of luck!!
It’s time you become a part!
For Photos of iGEM in Action: https://www.instagram.com/igempeshawar/ iGEM
Peshawar Official Team wiki: http://2017.igem.org
Team:Peshawar Follow iGEM Peshawar on social media: https://www.facebook.com/iGEMPeshawar https://twitter.com/igem_peshawar
For the project website: http://www.synbiokp.com
What did iGEM Peshawar did last time to win a bronze? Read here!