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 therapeutics track. Here are links to previous projects and a few excellent teams that would fit well into the new therapeutics track:

Great Diagnostics Project, Undergrad 2015

Evry: The YEasT Immunotherapy project (YETI)

Project abstract: Cancer thrives by preventing the immune system from targeting tumor cells. While current immunotherapies use dendritic cells to activate T-cells towards specific tumor antigens, they remain expensive and of variable efficiency against tumor immunosuppressive environment. To address these issues, our team mainly focused on engineering a S. cerevisiae yeast immunotherapy that was ultimately tested in vivo on mice presenting melanoma. Three complementary strategies were combined: First, in order to modulate the tumor environment, yeast secreting immune modulators, GM-CSF and IFNgamma, were encapsulated into alginate beads and injected in tumors. Secondly, to break the immune tolerance against cancer cells, T4 and T8 lymphocytes were elicited by a yeast antigen display system. Last, to deliver cytotoxic compounds solely in the tumor environment, a yeast hypoxia bio-sensor was designed. A side project consisted in engineering E. coli to drive MAIT lymphocytes against cancer cells instead of their original targets, parasitized cells.

Great Diagnostics Project, Undergrad 2015

Trinity College Dublin: E.artemisia

Project abstract: Semi-synthetic artemisinin is perhaps the poster-child achievement of synthetic biology. Before its introduction, the sole artemisinin supply was from a plant; Artemisia Annua. The production was expensive and highly variable. Artemisinin is currently the front line treatment for malaria, a disease transmitted in the bites of Anopheles mosquitoes. One of the deadliest diseases in human history, malaria now claims over 600,000 lives a year. The majority of these lives are young children, and residents of developing countries, where people are unable to afford the drug. Our mission is to investigate the production of affordable antimalarial drugs. Our team is working with artemisinic acid producing e-coli cells, obtained from Amyris, with the support of Zagaya. We have constructed biobrick components of the system, which should allow for easier research and development in the future.

Great Diagnostics Project, Undergrad 2015

Manchester-Graz - DopaDoser: The Self-Regulating, L-DOPA-Producing Gut Bacteria

Project abstract:iGEM Manchester-Graz’s aim is to take the first steps in the development of a novel technology for drug delivery by developing self-regulating, drug-producing bacteria. In the future, they could be incorporated into patients’ gut microflora to secrete medicines directly inside the body. We focused on the treatment of early stages of Parkinson’s disease, for which the current treatment involves oral administration of L-DOPA. To control the bacterial L-DOPA production in the gut, we plan to develop a multidimensional, cell density-dependent auto-regulation system that could also be used to control other multistep enzyme pathways. Since Manchester-Graz is an inter-European Team, the Manchester sub-team is working on L-DOPA biosynthesis in E. coli BL21(DE3) and Nissle 1917, while the Graz sub-team is developing the regulation system in the aforementioned strains. The project will be combined in a way that the regulation system would control the rate of biosynthesis for the accurate dosage.