2020 Teams

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UWA Team

We aim to address ocean microplastic pollution through the genetic modification of Vibrio natriegens (V.natriegens), a fast-growing marine bacterium which thrives in saline environments. We have inserted several genes encoding PET plastic-degrading enzymes into V.natriegens via a modular cloning reaction and carefully executed genetic design. In combination with V.natriegen’s natural ability to form biofilms, our engineering methods will provide the modified bacterium with every opportunity to capture and degrade microplastic particles in marine environments, with a precision unmet by conventional bioremediation techniques.

QUT Team

The QUT SynBio team are assessing six novel Australian isolates of Yarrowia lipolytica for their ability to produce pyomelanin. Promising isolates are being transformed for increased pyomelanin production through the knockout of HmgA1. Pyomelanin has multi-industry applications surrounding its photoprotective potential and use in the synthesis of gold nanoparticles.

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Melbourne University Team

The SP1 spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to ACE2 receptor to gain entry to the host cell. We aim to engineer macrophages to produce soluble ACE2 over an extended period as a possible COVID19 therapy. A modified ACE2 sequence will be introduced to the GAPDH gene locus of induced pluripotent stem cells which will then be differentiated into macrophages that can constitutively express soluble ACE2. 
We are also investigating the regulation, cost, access, scalability, and public perception of our project through the lens of a similar therapy that has advanced to clinical use: CAR-T cells. Through a series of articles, interviews and social media posts, we hope to communicate the science and challenges of CAR-T cells to the public and reflect on how we can tackle these in our own project to ensure an effective, safe, equitable treatment that meets the needs of the patients it aims to benefit.

ANU Team

Cryptoccocal meningitis is the leading cause of death for HIV positive individuals worldwide, particularly in resource-limited regions in Africa. We are using the latest tools and methods based on CRISP/Cas9 gene editing and GoldenGate cloning to modify bakers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). We aim to engineer this microbe into a biological sensor for the pathogenic fungus that causes the infection (Cryptococcus neoformas) to create a fast, accurate and cheap diagnostic tool for AIDS patients worldwide.

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