Pakistani students win a silver medal at the iGEM World Championship

November 30th, 2017 | by MuslimScience
Pakistani students win a silver medal at the iGEM World Championship

Boston,USA: A team of twelve undergraduate students from the Institute of Integrative Biosciences, CECOS University, Peshawar won a silver medal at this year’s International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition held in Boston, United States. The iGEM Peshawar team that was supported by the Directorate of Science and Technology, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was also nominated for the Best Biosafety Award.

Team members Muhammad Dawood, Ushma Farooq, Hassan Raza, Hassnain Qasim, Ayesha Khan and Babar Nawaz were awarded a Silver medal at an award ceremony that was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

The global iGEM contest based on synthetic biology is a five-day event featuring oral presentations, poster presentations, workshops and social events.

This year’s participants were encouraged to design projects in the environmental/social context. The iGEM Peshawar team developed a “Reporter Fish” that is genetically engineered to detect mental contamination in water. The fish will change its color once it comes into contact with water contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants – an indication that the waterbody is too polluted to support a population of fish for human consumption. The team self-engineered the genetic circuits for the said characteristic and tested its viability in bacterial cells. The project also featured a sensor system that alarms farmers through a text message upon detection of contaminated water.

Today, polluted seafood is a serious environmental issue. It contains an increasing level of contaminants that are causing serious health problems. The iGEM Peshawar students believe that this technology can be used by fish farmers to combat the problem of unhealthy fish and provide produce which is safe for human consumption.

iGEM is a global event that has been running for over a decade. It encourages students to solve some of the world’s most serious problems by building genetically engineered biological systems. The Pakistani cohort competed with over 90 teams whose projects were featured at the event – it also had over 3,000 synthetic biologists.  Speaking about the experience Omer Zeb from Swabi said: “Being the only electrical engineer in the team working with the undergrad biologists of Pakistan was a good experience.” Another member of the team, Hassan Raza, from Faisalabad said the project would help in combating a pressing environmental issue – water pollution.

‘I am super proud of the team who put in a lot of effort to win us a Silver medal this time. A lot of thanks to the Government of KP and CECOS university for the sponsorship and the all-out support throughout the competition this year, said Dr. Faisal Khan team supervisor and the director of the Institute of Integrative Biosciences at CECOS University. ‘We hope our industry will join hands with us in IGEM 2018 like all other teams here from different countries’, he added.

This is the second time a Pakistani team has participated and won in this competition. Previously, the Pakistani team was awarded a bronze medal for devising a BioSensor that recorded carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide levels being eliminated from vehicle exhausts.




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