November 5, 2012
A fluorescent biosensor that measures cellular activity, created by a team of Carnegie Mellon undergraduates, earned the Best Foundational Advance prize at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition's World Championship Jamboree, held Nov. 2–5 in Cambridge, Mass.
For this year's competition, more than 190 teams from 34 countries used a toolkit of standard, interchangeable biological parts to design and build biological systems that don't exist in nature. The teams first presented their work in Regional Jamborees. The CMU team participated in the Americas East Jamboree held in Pittsburgh, where they were named one of four regional finalists (out of 43 teams) and earned a gold medal and the prize for the Best BioBrick Measurement Approach. Overall, a total of 71 teams qualified to participate in the World Championship.
The Best Foundational Advance Prize is awarded at the World Championship Jamboree to the team that creates a biological system that could help enable the success of other systems created using synthetic biology. The CMU students — Yang Choo (E'14), Eric Pederson (S'15), Jesse Salazar (E'13) and Peter Wei (E'15) — used a fluorogen-activating RNA sequence and a fluorogen-activating protein to create a biosensor that glows brighter in response to cellular activities. The CMU invention can be used to measure the output of other systems created using synthetic biology.