The University of Westminster International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, taking part in the 2017 competition, will be hosting the annual global iGEM pre-competition UK team meetup on 18 August for the second year running.

Twelve Westminster Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Pharmacology and Physiology students will be hosting the meetup at the University, where teams of students will get the chance to network and attend conferences involving plenary speakers and the presentation of their projects. This will be followed by a convention in Boston, where students will be presenting to over 150 biotechnology companies competing with 300 worldwide teams.

The competition, dedicated to teams of students designing and presenting research projects within the field of synthetic biology, encourages undergraduates to design new biological systems to solve world problems.

For their 2017 project, the Westminster team is aiming to improve the effects of antibiotics through inhibiting biofilm formation by bacteria in order to increase their susceptibility to antibiotics. Tamsin Lacourte, a student part of the Westminster team, explained: “Antibiotic resistance is emerging as the next global crisis, with the rise of multi-drug resistance bacteria in particular causing huge problems, especially in hospital wards. One of the main contributors to bacterial resistance are biofilms, hence this project has a vast range of potential therapeutic applications. This project not only touches upon the here and now but we hope will be a source of inspiration for future teams, and will be a positive contribution to research in disease treatment via antibiotics and prognosis.” 

Talking about the iGEM competition, she continued: “iGEM has offered incredible insight of scientific research. In academic institutions, there is always some sort of guidance coming from either the professors or fellow students. However, this competition creates the opportunity for students to be in full control of everything. While quite daunting in moments where you don’t seem to know where to start, I have never felt so empowered.”

The 2017 Westminster iGEM team, made up of Phoenix Gater, Kamile Minkelyte, Zetasha Sheikh, Zain Hashmi, Reza Sarwary, Tamsin Lacourte, Rabia Memon, Tayyaba Malik, Shanaz Afsana, Sharmin Saleque, Sufiyan Patel and Hannah Nawaz, are currently fundraising to make their trip to the competition in the US this autumn. 

Find out more about the Biomedical Sciences and Biosciences courses at the University of Westminster.

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