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The 2017 Oxford University iGEM team have just returned from the competition in Boston with not only a Gold medal but also the extremely competitive award for Best Diagnostics Project in the Undergraduate category. In addition they were nominated for five further awards for best presentation, wiki, model, integrated human practices and best applied design.

The iGEM competition challenges interdisciplinary teams of students to spend the summer working on applying Synthetic Biology to address real world issues. The undergraduates drive the project from beginning to end.

This year’s team of 6 female and 6 male students, from Biochemistry, Engineering, Biology and Medicine, set out to develop a cheap and reliable diagnostic for Chagas disease. Chagas disease is a parasitic infection affecting millions of poor people in South America. If is diagnosed early it can be treated, but can be fatal if treatment is delayed.

The team interacted with stakeholders both in the UK and in the affected regions to guide their project. They used mathematical modelling to predict the behaviour of, and optimise, the genetic circuitry for their device before producing and testing various components in the laboratory. They also carried out iterations of designs and costings for their device and considered the potential benefits and issues around its use in the field.They were supported by supervisors from the Department of Engineering Science and the Department of Biochemistry.

Finally, the project culminated in Boston where they competed with more than 300 other teams from across the world, presenting their design and results to more than 3000 people at the Jamboree. Full details of their project can be found on their wiki: http://2017.igem.org/Team:Oxford

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