UCC’s “MoonShine” team scored silver at the prestigious iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) Jamboree held recently in Boston. More than 600 teams from universities across the world took part in the competition which is held up as the gold standard for “research-led education”.

Some of UCC’s brightest undergraduate students from different subject areas worked together for a period of several months over the 2017 summer break to solve unique problems using synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is a modern approach to designing and making novel products from biology, which is revolutionising what is possible in tackling world needs in health, energy, food and beyond.

The UCC team, the only Irish entry, set out to create ‘biological sensors’ using genetic ‘circuitry’, for use in the dairy and microbrewery industries to test for antibiotic or methanol residues. The resulting prototype created by the team represents an affordable and user-friendly platform, containing all components for use as a bioengineered DNA ‘device’, along with handheld hardware and software to easily inform the user of the results of the tests.

The team consists of a multi-disciplinary cohort of undergraduate students drawn from a range of degrees, including Biochemistry, Pharmacy, Medicine, Mathematical Science and Computer Science. This creates a melting pot in which students share ideas and concepts from disparate fields with the ambition of carrying out something new that may have a positive societal impact.

“I was blown away with how much was achieved in such a short time by undergraduate students and how sophisticated the resulting technology is, all due to the enthusiasm of the students and the power of Synthetic Biology” said Dr. Mark Tangney, Cancer Research at the College of Medicine and Health & APC Microbiome Institute.

The team was hosted by the UCC SynBioCentre, School of Biochemistry, Cork Cancer Research Centre & APC Microbiome Institute and mentored by Drs. Mark Tangney, Paul Young and Cormac Gahan. The project received financial support from UCC College of Medicine & Health, the APC Microbiome Institute, Breakthrough Cancer Research, UCC Blackstone Launchpad, UCC College of Business & Law, Janssen, Eli Lilly and BMG Labtech.

See here for more information.