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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

November 7, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Huskies win something: Genetic engineers world champs

The University of Washington may not be able to win the big football games, but schools around the world now live in fear of its genetic engineering team.

A team from the school won the world championship at the international genetic engineered machines competition, which had its final round today at MIT.

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Projects entered by the UW team included ways to make diesel fuel out of bacteria, bioengineered therapies for Celiac disease and genetic engineering toolkit. The team included 23 undergraduates plus advisers, faculty and support members.

Other finalists in the world jamboree were China’s Zhejiang University, Imperial College of London and MIT. In the Americas round last month, finalists included Yale, Lethbridge and a Brown-Stanford team.

Here are the descriptions of the UW team’s projects, from the team’s website:

Make It: Diesel Production We constructed a strain of Escherichia coli that produces a variety of alkanes, the main constituents of diesel fuel, by introducing a pair of genes recently shown to convert fatty acid synthesis intermediates into alkanes.

Break It: Gluten Destruction We identified a protease with gluten-degradation potential, and then reengineered it to have greatly increased gluten-degrading activity, allowing for the breakdown of gluten in the digestive track when taken in pill form.

iGEM Toolkits To enable next-generation cloning of standard biological parts, we built BioBrick vectors optimized for Gibson assembly and used them to create the Magnetosome Toolkit: a set of 18 genes from an essential operon in magnetotactic bacteria which we are characterizing to create magnetic E. coli.

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