Since 2007, teams of students from secondary and tertiary educational institutions all over the world have been competing to turn groundbreaking ideas in the field of synthetic biology into reality with a single year. The jurors attach great importance both to the actual research and the ability of the teams to bring the topic of synthetic biology out of the educational environment and to attention of the general public. At the end of the one-year competition period, the teams present the results of their projects in and outside the laboratory at a major conference.
Key features of the competition are the open access to all research data produced, provided via individual Wiki websites (as an example: the iGEM NAWI Graz Project 2018), and the ambition to combine synthetic biology with as many other research areas as possible.
In addition, the iGEM NAWI Graz team works closely with experts working in the fields of medicine and biology as well as industry to address concerns and remove biases about synthetic biology. Schools are visited to give pupils an insight into this new subject area.
Since 2015, teams from Graz have been competing in the iGEM Competition for Synthetic Biology in Boston (USA).
At the iGEM Competition the projects of the iGEM teams are assessed by judges and awarded with medals (gold/silver/bronze/no medal). More information about the criteria for medals.
In addition, iGEM NAWI Graz competes in the category Overgrad (overgraduate) for various awards and prizes with other iGEM teams. More about the awards and prizes.
To ensure the supply of nutrients to humanity, the worldwide cultivation of crops such as wheat, maize or sugar cane as well as other fruits and vegetables is increasing, and with it the demand for phosphate-containing fertilisers. However, phosphorus is a finite resource. At the current rate of consumption, reserves of mineable phosphate-bearing rock will last for the next 100 years. In addition, the excessive use of phosphorous fertilisers leads to various environmental problems.
The aim of our project is to effectively reduce the amount of fertiliser that needs to be used in various agricultural sectors. We want to achieve this by introducing foreign genes from a bacterium into a modified strain of E.Coli bacteria that is easier to cultivate. These transformed organisms could be added to fertilisers in the future to increase fertiliser capacity while using less phosphate. We are already working at full speed on the development and are approaching our set goal.
The American foulbrood is the most important bacterial bee disease in Austria and Europa but its early detection is still time-consuming and dependent on supporting infrastructure (especially a microbial laboratory). Therefore we are developing a biosensor, with which every beekeeper can detect the disease by himself long before it manifests clinically and can take appropriate measures. We aim to fully develop a functional prototype of a biosensor, which is ready to be used in a fast and easy manner. To cover all the needed know-how our team consists of molecular biologists as well as students of chemistry and biomedical engineering.
We are in contact with beekeepers and with beekeeping associations and get help from professors and researchers in the field of apicology, microbiology and electrical chemistry.
In 2019, the iGEM team developed a biosensor for the early detection of the American foulbrood, the most important bacterial bee disease in Europe. The team won a gold medal and several awards and nominations within the category
In 2019, the iGEM team developed a simple method for the early detection of American foulbrood, the most important bacterial bee disease in Europe, with the project
Beeosensor. The project was awarded a gold medal and several awards and nominations in the category
The palm oil industry grew dramatically during recent decades due to rising demand. Its impact on the food, cosmetics and technology industries cannot be ignored. In response to the problems that have arisen, the team has focused on the production of palm kernel oil using genetically modified microorganisms. As part of the iGEM project, we had the opportunity to speak with experts from different fields about the current situation in the palm oil industry and survey members of the population regarding their palm oil consumption.
The iGEM competition enables students to apply their ideas and visions, gain experience in the independent organisation, plan and implement a project and cooperate with professors, company and organization representatives.
As part of the iGEM competition 2017, we developed a communication interface between robots and bacteria that is based on the detection of fluorescent dyes produced under different environmental conditions. As a practical application, a robot was guided through a labyrinth by genetically modified E. coli, which were in a homemade bioreactor. The project generated great interest in the final event in Boston, and we were able to win a silver medal.
In addition to the development of this interface, the team also used this opportunity to introduce the topic of synthetic biology to the general public through public events and school visits.
iGEM allows us to develop, prepare and ultimately implement our own projects, freely and without any guidelines, but nevertheless with the support of professors. That allows me to mature at a personal and technical level and to gather hands-on experience – experience that I would never have gained in my course.