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Viral or bacterial? New test for infections

Student team of TUM and LMU awarded as 1st Runner Up at the iGEM competition

2017-11-16 – News from the Physics Department

Increasing antibiotic resistance is a global problem. In order to avoid unnecessary medication with antibiotics, Munich students developed a test system that can efficiently distinguish between bacterial and viral infections. At the international iGEM competition they were awarded as 1st Runner Up in the category “overgraduate”.

The student team at the iGEM-competition in Cambridge (USA).
The student team at the iGEM-competition in Cambridge (USA). – Photo: iGEM-Team

CascAID – this is the name of the new system, which the team set-up to quickly and efficiently test whether antibiotics are necessary or not. For this, the Munich team of this year’s iGEM competition took advantage of the recently discovered protein Cas13a.

Unlike related proteins, Cas13a has the unique ability to bind and cleave RNA domains in a highly specific manner. Building on this capability, the iGEM team developed the test system CascAID (Cas13a controlled assay for infectious diseases), which combines an automated microfluidic device for rapid lysis and extraction of nucleic acids with a paper-based readout system.

In addition to the 1st Runner Up award in the overall standings, the system received special awards in the categories „Best Diagnostics Project“, „Best Model“, „Best Hardware“, „Best Software“ and „Best Applied Design“.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) is an international competition in the field of synthetic biology. Also this year, students from LMU and TUM formed a joint, interdisciplinary team of molecular biologists, biotechnologists, biophysicists and bioinformaticians.

The work was carried out in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Friedrich Simmel at the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials of the Technical University of Munich in Garching. The joint project was initiated by the DFG Research Training Group “Molecular Principles of Synthetic Biology”, led by spokeswoman Prof. Dr. Kirsten Jung.

In total, about 300 teams took part in the competition. Grand Prize Winner in the category “Overgraduates” was the team of TU Delft. Grand Prize Winner in the category “Undergraduates” was a team from Vilnius-Lithuania, followed by teams from the College of William and Mary (USA) and University of Heidelberg.

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