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iGEM Competition

A telling test

München, 11/16/2017

To avoid needless use of antibiotics (which promotes resistance), Munich students have designed a test that reliably distinguishes between bacterial and viral infections. The project won Second Prize in the international iGEM Competition.

Working outdoors on a sunny day paid off for Biology student Benedikt and his team-mates.

The system the team came up with for the iGEM Competition is called CascAID – and it is capable of rapidly and reliably determining whether or not a course of antibiotics is required to treat an infection. Antibiotics act only against infections caused by (sensitive) bacterial pathogens. If the condition is caused by a virus, the use of an antibiotic will not only be superfluous but deleterious, because it may promote the development of resistance in the bacterial populations naturally present in the body. The Munich team took advantage of a recently discovered protein called Cas13a. Unlike related proteins used in so-called CRISPR systems for gene editing, Cas13a has the ability to bind and cleave both DNA and RNA molecules at defined target sequences with high specificity. This feature of the protein was crucial for the development of CascAID. To discover how the prize-winning test works, visit the Project’s Webpage.

The iGEM Competition is an international contest in the field of Synthetic Biology. This year, for the second time, LMU students worked together with students from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in an interdisciplinary team made up of molecular biologists, biotechnologists, biophysicists and bioinformaticists. The work was carried out in Professor Friedrich Simmel’s lab at the der TUM in Garching. The initial stimulus for the collaborative project came from the Graduate School on Molecular Principles of Synthetic Biology, which is coordinated by Professor Kirsten Jung. This year more than 300 teams took part in the competition.