Nieuws - 6 november 2012

Biologists do well in Boston

The team which represents Wageningen at the biology competition iGem got into the final 16 places. The students are thrilled. 'We are jumping with joy.'

Being among the best 16 is an honour, with 70 teams having participated in the finals. The organizers did not rank the finalists any further except for the first four, with Groningen emerging as winner. The prize-giving ceremony took place last evening at top university MIT in Boston.
'It still seems a bit unreal,' says team member Kees van de Ark via Skype right after the ceremony. 'We are jumping with joy.' During the ceremony, their hearts sank when the team did not win any of the minor prizes. It therefore came as a surprise to end up among the best. 'It was a big accomplishment and we just could not believe it.'
Although they have not made any plans yet, Van der Ark thinks that they will celebrate this evening together with the Groningen team members, who are staying in the same hostel as theirs. In the coming days, they plan to take a short vacation in Boston. 'We look forward to an interesting evening tomorrow with the elections. This will be followed by an evening at a basketball match featuring the Boston Celtics.'
The jury members did not give any actual feedback concerning the Wageningen project. However, some comments were disclosed during conversations. 'They found the project very practical,' says Van der Ark. 'It could lead to real applications, so it's very likely that the project will not end here.'
The products of the iGem competition belong in the field of synthetic biology. Researchers in this area build artificial circuits with individual bio bricks. These circuits have various useful functions. In the case of Wageningen, for example, they enable medicines to reach specific areas of the body. The winning team devised a 'food guard' which lights up when food decays.