Universiteit Leiden

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Golden medal for project ELECTRACE

A team of students from Leiden University, TU Delft and Rotterdam University won a golden medal during the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) in November in Boston. Their project ELECTRACE concerned a bacterium that can be used to search for landmines.

For the iGEM competition students are challenged to develop a yeast or bacterium with a new application. No fewer than 245 teams from all over the world came together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston to present their ideas during a major conference. The competition engages student-led teams from universities to present novel synthetic biology projects that address real-world problems.

Leiden University was represented in the ELECTRACE team by Anne van der Meij and Marielle van Kooten, both Biology students and Tomek Danseglio, student of Life Science & Technology. Together with ten other students from the TU Delft and Rotterdam University they worked on a Escherichia coli strain that can transport electrons and detect landmines as a final application.

Landmine Detection

The bacterium detects soil contamination that occurs because mines leak small amounts of chemicals that are then spread via the ground water. When these chemicals are detected, the bacterium emits an electrical signal. Team leader Anne Meyer: “This is a great example of how fundamental research can be used for practical applications with a huge social impact”. The team also developed a special detector device that can be produced for just three euros. This inexpensive technology could make it possible for people who live in areas contaminated by landmines to check their own fields.


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