One of the most popular tracks in iGEM has always been Health & Medicine. There were over 50 teams in this track in 2015 competing for a track prize and several nominations. Because of the number of teams competing for this award, iGEM HQ decided to split the Health & Medicine track into two new tracks: Diagnostics and Therapeutics.

How do you know if your project fits into the diagnostics track, the therapeutics track or maybe both? It depends on where you choose to put the focus of your project. Is your team more concerned with detecting illness and disease, or in treating it? What parts have you made? Does your project detect pathogens or disease states, or does it pave a way to treat medical conditions? If you are working on both issues, you may want to think about what aspect of your project is working better before selecting a track, or spliting your team and having two projects.

While there have yet to be any iGEM projects formally entered into this new track, some projects from previous years can be re-categorized into the diagnostics track. Here are links to previous projects and a few excellent teams that would fit well into the new diagnostics track:

Recent Health & Medicine projects that can be re-categorized as diagnostics:

Winning Diagnostics projects in 2015 Undergrad

Czech Republic: THE IOD BAND

Project abstract: The IOD band is a general diagnostic test enabling early detection and mapping of tumor mobility. Over a billion unique tests are made accessible to field experts outside of synthetic biology with a unique clone-free assembly feature. Tumor mobility is incredibly difficult to diagnose due to the rarity of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and the complexity of surface marker combinations. The IOD band strives to make it easy. The central players are processing units called Input Output Diploids or IODs. IODs use antigen recognition and intercellular communication to create a logical network by which even single cells carrying the desired marker profile can be identified in a background of millions. Affirmative CTC localisation triggers a global response manifested by IOD initiated clumping at levels visible to the naked eye. As such, IOD bands do in a test tube what normally requires days to do in the lab.

Nominated for Best Health & Medicine project 2015 Undergrad

Peking - Fighting Against Tuberculosis: Making Invisible Visible

Project abstract: Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, remains one of the world's most serious public health problems. Although tuberculosis is curable and the treatment success rate is high, it is still the second most common cause of death from infectious disease. Most of the deaths occur for lack of effective identification of those in need of therapy. Case detection is currently the rate-limiting step in TB control. A diagnostic tool with high sensitivities and specificities is desired urgently, and it is supposed to be used at the point-of-care within a clinic or in the community. To obviate such problems, Peking iGEM is developing a novel Mycobacterium tuberculosis detection system that can transform biomarkers of TB into optical signal or electric signal. Combined with our work in software and hardware development, this new advanced system can be turned out as a powerful tool in TB diagnosis, with high sensitivities and specificities.

Winner for the Best Health & Medicine project 2015 Overgrad

BGU Israel - The Boomerang System: Synthetic Machine for Cancer Therapy

Project abstract: Despite recent treatment advancements, cancer is still a major cause of mortality worldwide. One of the fundamental problems preventing the development of effective therapy is the difficulty to target cancer cells exclusively. In Boomerang, we're engineering a genetic device based on a simple concept of AND logic gate: the activation of our CRISPR/Cas9-based system is dependent on the existence of two cancer-specific promoters that control the expression of Cas9 and gRNA, and the combination of these two will occur only in cancer cells. CRISPR/Cas9 system allows several applications of Boomerang: 1) disruption of genes essential for cancer survival; and 2) activation of suicide genes, or color proteins for cancer cell detection (e.g., for complete surgical removal). Our system can be potentially designed according to unique characteristics of a patient's tumor, paving the way to personalized medicine. We hope that our strategy will change the approach to cancer treatments.