Latvian Students Win the World’s Largest Synthetic Biology Competition

30th of November, 2023
iGEM Latvia Student Team 2023.

A team of students from Riga Technical University (RTU) and the University of Latvia (LU) took the gold at «International Genetically Engineered Machine» (iGEM), the world's largest biotechnology innovation competition. The team is developing a plant-inspired tool for the synthesis of cyclic peptides in the pursuit of a solution to combating antibacterial resistance and promoting the development of new drugs and pesticides. Want to compete in 2024? Applications are open until December.

Cyclic peptides have many valuable properties, such as high metabolic stability and antibacterial activity, which open opportunities for their widespread use. Cyclic peptides occur naturally in various plant species, the molecular mechanism responsible for cyclization reactions is the BURP-domain protein. The team was able to successfully validate the peptide cyclization reaction, demonstrating that the BURP-domain protein can cyclize a variety of peptide sequences, not just those found in plant genomes. The team is confident that this provides the basis for further research and development of cyclic peptide products.  

In the international competition, the team was also nominated for the Best Creation of a Simple Genetic Component (Best Basic Part) category. 

Given the rapid development of synthetic biology in the world, iGEM aims to promote the solution of various problems from a synthetic biology perspective, with interdisciplinary teams working together both inside and outside laboratories to create and further develop solutions to pressing environmental, medical, or industrial problems using the latest methods of molecular biology. The Latvian student team also wants to increase the public's understanding of synthetic biology; therefore, it is developing the game «BIOTOPIA» in accordance with the educational content of competencies with the hopes that it will become one of the future biology teaching materials for high school students. Both students and families with children have already sampled the educational game. 

Success has come quickly for the Latvian student team as this is the second year their iGEM participation has earned high results. Last year, the Latvian team won bronze. 

An upcoming event will allow interested parties to learn more about the performance of this year's team, as well as more about the competition in general and the opportunity to participate next year. On December 7 at 18:00, the «iGEMet Gala» event will be held at the RTU Science and Innovation Center, (Ķipsalas Street 6A, room 247) which students and other interested parties are invited to attend.  

To participate in this introductory session, please fill out the questionnaire.

A team is currently being formed for next year's competition. Want to join? The student application is open until December 24, by filling out this questionnaire.

The iGEM Latvian student team worked under the guidance of mentors and researchers from the Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology of the University of Latvia, Jānis Liepiņš and Anna Stikāne. Their research work was conducted in cooperation with the Institute of Organic Synthesis of Latvia (OSI) and the laboratories of the University of Latvia.

For the second year, the creation of the team was coordinated by the «Biocatalyst» Foundation. Its operation was supported by SIA «Mikrotīkls», the LU Foundation, the LU Student Council, the RTU Student Parliament, and the «Biocatalyst» foundation.

More information is available here.

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30th of November, 2023 at 13:36

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