News - October 3, 2011

Bacterial illuminator fails to make the finals

The Wageningen team of biology hobbyists will not be at the finals of the international iGem competition.

A real pity', is the response from the team's captain, Martijn Wapenaar. But the fact is, he does not understand why. 'We are extremely surprised that we did not make it. Up to the very last moment, we had thought that we could be through. We did well and the jury had also indicated that we stood a good chance.'
Flashing light
This was the first time Wageningen participated in iGem, an international student competition in the field of synthetic biology. The aim of the competition is to build new functions into existing organisms (bacteria). The team from Wageningen designed a system which enables bacteria to be illuminated simultaneously, like having a bacterial flashing light.
The European finals of iGem took place in Amsterdam last Saturday, where Wageningen had to compete against forty other university teams. A total of eighteen teams got through to the finals, which will be held in a months' time in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
Wapenaar does not understand why Wageningen has been dropped. All the more so since the team has won a gold medal. Almost all gold medallists get to go to the finals. 'We are extremely piqued. We are wondering how this happened. What went wrong? We still don't know why at this moment. But I hope to get an answer from the jury.'
Although the competition is now over for the Wageningers, their work will have a follow-up. Wapenaar: 'We're going to see if we can get a few publications into scientific journals.' The battle has in the meantime been won by the Imperial College London. Of the four teams from The Netherlands, only the team from Groningen will take part in the finals.