2021 Teams


ResolvSyn - ANU

Resolvins are fatty acid metabolites and are powerful anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory lipid mediators. They play an important protective role in chronic inflammatory diseases and sepsis - a life-threatening complication of an infection. Producing resolvins requires the enzymatic metabolism of fish oil's two major omega-3 fatty acids; docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid (DHA/EPA). Due to the low availability of resolvins from natural sources and inefficient synthesis methods, we have employed synthetic biology to genetically engineer a novel yeast strain that synthesises DHA/EPA into resolvins. This yeast-based biofactory is fuelled by high yielding DHA/EPA algae to sustainably and affordably produce resolvins.


GMBros - QUT

The oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica has exhibited notable qualities for industrial use due to the natural hydrolysis of triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol. The aim of QUT synbio team, GMBrOs is to genetically modify this organism for use as a skincare product, able to pass regulatory requirements for a live therapeutic and be released into the environment safely. 
An auxotrophic marker was introduced to prevent GMO escape by knocking out the LEU2 gene, removing the ability for Y. lipolytica to produce leucine. The SUC2 gene from S. cerevisiae was knocked into the LEU2 position on the Y. lipolytica genome by homologous recombination. This allowed the secretion of invertase and utilisation of sucrose as a carbon source by the yeast. By applying sucrose for the biotherapeutic to consume, it will be able to outcompete the native skin microbiome.
To test for our strain’s capability for recombinant protein expression, yEGFP was transformed into the pCRISPRyl plasmid Cas9 site by Gibson assembly. Protein expression and SUC2 transformation will be analysed by phenotypic assay and sanger sequencing.

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PROTECC Coral (Prevent Reactive Oxygen and Thermal Extreme Caused Carking)

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral system, integral to Indigenous Australian culture and classified as a World Heritage Site. Rising ocean temperatures have caused several large coral bleaching events, which are attributed to a shift in the symbiotic relationship between coral and microscopic algae species. Heat-induced oxidative stress experienced by algae eventually leads to their expulsion from coral.

PROTECC Coral aims to reduce coral bleaching by increasing the thermotolerance and antioxidant capacity of a common algal symbiont Symbiodinium goreaui. The twofold solution involves introducing small heat shock proteins to prevent protein aggregation, and a glutathione recycling enzyme system to counteract oxidative stress. Experiments and computational modelling were conducted to examine and validate the solution, complemented by considerable outreach, both informing the wider population about synthetic biology and consulting with various stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, to assess the value and impact of the project.

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RNA MEChanics - UNSW

Multi-enzyme complexes (MECs) are one of nature's ways of optimising biochemical reactions. We are the RNA MEChanics and aim to custom-design MECs for specific reactions in order to improve their efficiency, yield, and lower cost. We do this by using genetic material (RNA) as a scaffold to bind with high affinity to PUF RNA binding proteins. The modular nature of our model means we can adapt our designs to work with different enzymes from different reaction pathways. We have been testing our system with the biosynthetic pathway for an important redox cofactor F420.


DeNovocastrians - UON

Our project aims to tackle the emerging environmental and health hazard of microplastic pollution. The goal of our system is to degrade microplastics into less harmful compounds and prevent them from cycling through ecosystems. We have designed a functional microbial scaffold that will secrete engineered plastic degrading enzymes. We successfully cloned engineered constructs of the plastic degrading enzymes, MHETase and manganese peroxidase, containing secretion factors and binding domains specific to our scaffold, into Escherichia coli. We envision our system being applied to remove microplastics from aquatic environments such as the ocean, rivers, and water treatment plants.

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Phage Phriends - UQ

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common health-care infections, especially in the case of indwelling catheters. In 50-90% of UTIs, E. coli are the most common organism observed. Biofilm formation occurs in approximately 62% of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) and contributes to their pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance.
Bacteriophages have evolved to infect specific host bacterial strains and self-replicate whilst producing lytic enzymes such as lysins and depolymerases. These enzymes destroy the protective biofilm matrix. Our project aims to use Synthetic Biology to introduce visually detectable chromoproteins into phage genomes as a biosensor for UTIs. The purpose of this is to reduce the burden of UTI’s by allowing for early detection which would make for more effective treatments.


Free Coli - USYD

Free Coli aimed to improve one of synthetic biology's foundational technologies by designing a genetically modified naturally transformable lab strain of Escherichia coli to produce a more affordable and efficient host organism that does not require chemical treatment or electroporation to become competent. Literature on natural transformation in E. coli and related bacterium was reviewed and experts were consulted to identify twenty-five putative natural transformation genes in A. baylyi for insertion into E. coli via a novel recombineering strategy for insertion of multiple gene clusters. K-means clustering used existing data on transcriptome concentration and promoter strength to model the optimal clustering of genes into eight <5kB DNA fragments. Bioinformatics analysis was conducted to assemble the genes into fragments with salicylate promoters and selectable markers. The wider community was engaged and consulted to affirm the project’s purpose and align its future implementation with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to ensure quality education for all.

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Design Lab - UTS

Synthetic biology is at the cutting-edge of innovation and technological development, however, most of the wicked problems that society faces are far too complex to be tackled by a single discipline alone. Instead, these challenges require technical skills and expertise from disparate fields of knowledge to be cleverly merged with one another. Our Aus SynBio Challenge team was comprised of scientists and designers, and demonstrated the potential of large-scale interdisciplinary collaboration. Together, we created the electronic magazine (e-zine) “Synthesis” - a curated collection of articles that explores current social issues, scientific and industrial advances, and collaborative co-creation between synthetic biologists and biodesigners. The E-zine reflects our team’s journey throughout the Aus SynBio Challenge, representing the varying challenges we encountered as an interdisciplinary team and the successful solutions we conceived together along the way. “Synthesis” serves as an educational tool and creative output, showcasing the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, and inspiring both the scientific and design communities to immediately seize upon the opportunity to work synergistically on ambitious projects to overcome current and future societal issues.

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Burkholderia pseudomallei (B. pseudomallei) is a prevalent environmental bacterium that causes melioidosis. To combat this disease, the UWA ProAMP team aims to develop a probiotic with the ability to release targeted antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) against B.pseudomallei. Ubonodin, an AMP originating from B. ubonensis with antimicrobial specificity towards Burkholderia strains, will be used as a model for the synthesis of a novel AMP library screening against B. pseudomallei. The introduction of a functional AMP with appropriate biosensing modules into a probiotic species could allow the pathogen to be targeted upon entry into the body, removing the threat of melioidosis without harming the host microbiome.


Plants in Space - UWA

NASA has announced plans to set up a Lunar base in 2028 and a subsequent human crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. Long term habitation in space requires access to nutritious food in an environment where crops and livestock cannot be grown. The UWA Plants in Space team are engineering moss to produce proteins with increased nutritional value for astronauts on long term space missions. Specifically, we are expressing proteins that are enriched for essential amino acids that could be a supplement for both Earth and Space applications. Moss has the potential to be a sustainable, multifunctional protein biofactory.


2020 Teams


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.