Synthetic Biology Club combatting MRSA super bug

Thursday, February 9, 2017
2016 iGem students from the Synthetic Biology Club

The MRSA bacteria strain is known to health professionals as a super bug.

It’s a big problem in North American hospitals and is resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.

Students in the Synthetic Biology Club at the University of Northern British Columbia want to attempt to come up with a detection and killing mechanism to combat this super bug.
It’s their way of finding a real solution to a current problem.

And the club wants to hear from UNBC students who are studying math, physics, biology, biochemistry or business at the undergraduate or graduate level.

It’s an opportunity to brainstorm, be exposed to the scientific community, do cutting-edge research and fundraise so the club can return to compete in the 2017 iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition next fall held at the Hynes Convention Centre in Boston, Mass.

“You get to be in a room full of the brightest minds in synthetic biology in the world. It’s both humbling and exciting,” said Club co-president Brendan Reiter about the competition.

Last year, the UNBC Synthetic Biology club, featuring 11 biochemistry and biomedical students, were among 10 teams from Canadian universities competing in the international event that featured 300 teams from around the world. It was the first time UNBC had competed at the event.

 Reiter and co-president Keanna Woidak, both fourth-year biochemistry and biochemistry students, were on that team and can't wait to return to Boston. 

UNBC students attempted to build a genetically engineered system using an e-coli strain, which is harmless to humans, to remove copper from water so that it is safe to drink. The copper-binding system could also be used to remove lead from water.

iGEM is an annual, world-wide synthetic biology event for high school, undergraduate and graduate students.

With the help from the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, they raised $32,000 in six months to cover the majority of their costs. Each student only had to pay $200 from their own pocket to attend the competition in October, 2016.

Between fundraising and doing research for iGEM, as well as attending their regular classes, it was a lot of work.

This time around, the club would love to have more students involved to divide up specific tasks and work in separate groups.

Students who are interested in joining the club are asked to e-mail Reiter or Woidak at reiterb@unbc.ca or woidak@unbc.ca

Pictured above: the 2016 UNBC iGem team that competed in Boston in October.