On the evening of November 5, 2023, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM), the top international competition in synthetic biology, was concluded in Paris, France. The BASIS International & Bilingual Schools · China (BIBS·C) team of 18 students stood out from almost 400 teams around the world and was the only Finalists team from China among all the divisions, and eventually won the First Runner Up in the high school division, as well as the Gold Medal, Special Prizes, and a number of nomination awards.
Founded in 2003 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), iGEM is an interdisciplinary activity involving cross-disciplinary cooperation in the fields of biology, mathematics, medicine, and information technology. iGEM students have been published in many leading scientific journals, including Nature and Science. This year marks the 20th anniversary of iGEM.
BIBS·C Team Triumph
The competition has grown in scale each year, and this year’s competition attracted almost 400 teams from all over the world to participate (including high school and college student teams). After a fierce competition, only 7 teams stood on the final stage to participate in the presentation contest. In this final round, the students from BIBS·C were confident and demonstrated solid synthetic biology knowledge, rigorous experimental ideas, novel and innovative and green device designs, and their eco-friendly global citizenship. They eventually won the First Runner Up in the high school category. Among the 94 high school teams from China, only the BIBS·C team stood on the podium at the final competition.
The BIBS·C team also received the Gold Medal, two Special Prizes for Best Wiki and Best Safety and Security, as well as several nominations for Best New Composite Part, Best Integrated Human Practices, and Best Presentation.
This is the first time students from BASIS International & Bilingual Schools · China competed in the iGEM competition as one team. Amongst those participants, the 18 students came from BASIS International School Shenzhen, BASIS International School Guangzhou, BASIS International School Hangzhou, BASIS International School Park Lane Harbour and BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen. Our team consists of exceptional students whose expertise varies across different disciplines. Demonstrating the strength of collaboration between our campuses, BASIS students cooperated and collaborated together to form a winning team.
To prepare for iGEM, our students designed research topics, operated a biological lab, built mathematics models, and presented research outputs. During the nearly half-year’s commitment and hard work, our students overcame multiple challenges such as unsatisfying statistics, failure of the microbial chassis, divided opinions among team members, the burst of reactors, and other obstacles. With dedicated effort, our team successfully engineered a special kind of cyanobacteria which when exposed to light produced carbon dioxide, nutrients, and a signature scent. It is hoped this Cyanoscent can reduce people’s stress and anxiety. Additionally, our team created some new biotechnological equipment, which can help mass produce the Cyanoscent.
The BASIS International & Bilingual Schools · China iGEM team excels at finding and solving problems in life. They discovered that people in modern society generally experience a certain level of stress and wanted to help ease people’s stress by providing healthy, environmentally friendly solutions. During nearly half-year’s committed hard work on modifying experiments, the students successfully engineered a special kind of cyanobacteria to produce β-pinene and farnesene scent wherever there is light, carbon dioxide and nutrients. Those cyanoscent give off a citrus and grapefruit-like scent that can reduce people’s stress and anxiety.
In order to develop the cultivated cyanobacteria into usable products, the team members conducted social research, consulted psychologists and visited the fragrance research and development team. After a period of human practices and data collection, the team members made use of synthetic biology to transform the microbial chassis of cyanobacteria, so as to make the cyanobacteria emit a special scent.
Additionally, the team created some new biotechnological equipment, which helps place their findings on production, including large-scale equipment in industrial, car accessories and even a small pendant on the neck, etc., which all reflect the team’s thinking about the application of products following the human practices.
When carrying out product promotion and human practices, some members of the team discovered the public’s concern about their products – if cyanobacteria get casually discarded into lakes, rivers and other public water bodies. It will cause the outbreaks of “water bloom”, which will seriously affect the water quality. After consulting experts and professors in related fields, the team found a solution to this problem.
They produced a new generation of cyanobacteria with new characteristics that can prevent pollution. This new generation of cyanobacteria can only grow in the special iron-rich culture fluid. If they are accidentally introduced into public waters, the iron in the water will not be sufficient to support the growth of the cyanobacteria. This method effectively avoids biological pollution and demonstrates the awareness of environmental protection and global citizenship of our iGEM team.
The success of the BASIS International & Bilingual Schools · China team at iGEM 2023 underscores the network’s commitment to academic excellence, interdisciplinary collaboration, and global citizenship. The Cyanoscent Program not only showcased their scientific ingenuity but also their dedication to creating solutions that prioritize both well-being and environmental responsibility. As BASIS students continue to excel on the global stage, their achievements serve as a testament to the power of a united educational network fostering innovation and shaping future leaders.
For more information about teaching with BASIS International Schools, visit our careers website.