iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) is an annually held synthetic biology competition organised by non-profit iGEM Foundation. Over 300 teams and almost 6 000 students from universities all around the globe participate in the competition every year to innovate and tackle various issues from diseases to environmental pollution with the tools of synthetic biology.The teams also help standardise the field by contributing with biological parts BioBricks and conducting measurements. During the fall, all the iGEM teams gather together in Boston to Giant Jamboree to share their ideas and accomplishments with others and the world.
In October, Aalto-Helsinki team consisting of ten students from the fields of biosciences, design, sustainability, business and physics in Aalto University and the University of Helsinki brought home gold medal from this year’s iGEM 2018 Giant Jamboree. During the final ceremonies, the team was also proud to receive a nomination for Best Product Design from special track award categories.
From spring to fall, Aalto-Helsinki team has been working to develop a potential solution to an international environmental problem: Textile dyeing polluting water systems. In many countries with large-scale textile industry such as India and Bangladesh, part of the synthetic dyes used in the plants end up in nearby rivers and lakes. Many of these synthetic dyes are both hazardous and slow to biodegrade.
The solution of Aalto-Helsinki is Silkolor – a sustainable approach to the dyeing industry using fusion proteins. As such, Silkolor is an attempt to revolutionise the textile dyeing process by producing pre-dyed silk fibers and biodegradable protein-based dyes, which could be potentially used in the future as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to current dyeing practices.
Year 2018 marks the fifth time that Aalto-Helsinki has participated in iGEM Competition, every year with a new team. They still remain the only team representing Finland. Currently, Aalto-Helsinki is recruiting students from all fields of their home universities for next year’s team.