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iGEM team wins multiple awards at Grand Jamboree

Leiden's iGEM team has won high honours at the Grand Jamboree in Paris. The biology students came second in the Overgraduate category with their project PHAse Out. They also took home awards for Best Biomanufacturing Project, Best Wiki and Best Entrepreneurship as well as a Gold Medal. To top it all off, they also received three nominations.  

'We never expected to finish so high,' says Jasper Smits van Waesberghe. 'We would already be super proud and happy with just a Gold Medal. Getting that was our original goal. So we are very surprised and overwhelmed by all these awards.' 

Getting bacteria to make a biodegradable plastic

The students have been working on a solution to the global plastic problem since April by using bacteria to make a biodegradable plastic from PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate). Bacteria can break down this plastic in three months. However, PHA is expensive to produce. To produce the plastic more efficiently and cheaply, the students made genetic modifications to the bacterium Methylobacterium Extorquens, which naturally produces it. The team is therefore incredibly proud to be the first iGEM team ever to genetically modify the micro-organism Methylobacterium Extorquens. 'The result is that we can now produce bioplastics as much as 24 times more efficiently,' says a proud Smits van Waesberghe. To help future teams work with this non-model organism, the students also developed the manual: 'How to work with Methylobacterium extorquens.' 

No sequel for PHAse Out

Despite the promising results, the PHAse Out project will not get a follow-up for now. 'We did create a comprehensive businessplan, but all our team members are still busy with their studies. All the engineering, results and other information from our project can be found online, so who knows, maybe other researchers or iGEM teams will build on the knowledge we gained and the results we collected.' 

Find out more about PHAse Out in this video

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