Dalhousie’s iGEM Team

Dalhousie's iGEM Team Wins Bronze!

Dalhousie iGEM Team Wins Bronze Medal on World Stage

Providing unique research opportunities to undergraduate students in the field of synthetic biology, Dalhousie’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team is actively creating a hub of synthetic biology expertise in Atlantic Canada.

Thanks to support from DMRF, this year’s iGEM team presented their research at the largest synthetic biology conference in the world this past November – the iGEM Giant Jamboree – held in Boston, Massachusetts. Here, the team proved their expertise to the world, receiving a bronze medal for their research in harnessing microbial genes to improve the human planet, as well as human health.

Borrowing from Dalhousie’s leading medical research in microbiology and advanced understanding of the human microbiome, the team’s research focused on the novel concept of using the porcupine microbiome – the natural bacteria and fungi in the gut of the porcupine – to breakdown plant-cellulose to create sustainable biofuel.

Unlike existing methods of breaking down cellulose for biofuel, which require substantial resources and harsh chemicals, the team highlighted the possibility of a much more affordable and sustainable solution that could ultimately increase biofuel production around the world, and move our planet away from fossil fuels.

“Our work demonstrated that we can make microbes do the work for us in converting cellulose into biofuel. Knowing this, there now exists enormous potential to ultimately set up a bioreactor system for biofuel production, and to market this technology around the world.”

- Mackenzie Thornbury, 2017 iGEM team-lead, Dalhousie University

With support from DMRF donors, Dalhousie’s iGEM team was able to suggest a novel concept to the world – one with the potential to reduce carbon footprints, and to economically benefit global industries by leveraging cellulose waste for energy, from the pulp and paper industry in Canada to the sugarcane industry in Brazil. Just as importantly, the project also demonstrated promising potential to translate to breakthroughs in medical research, through the discovery of microbes that could be used to improve human health.

“As we’re seeing larger and larger issues emerging in the world, from medical challenges to climate change, we’re realizing that we’re going to have to take some pretty drastic measures to come up with solutions. Research in synthetic biology can play a large role in delivering these solutions, and DMRF’s support helps us tremendously in this pursuit.”

- Mackenzie Thornbury, 2017 iGEM team-lead, Dalhousie University