Carmel Valley iGEM team takes second at international event held at MIT


The Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy’s joint high school iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team recently won second place (first runner- up) and the Best Poster Award at the international competition, held June 28 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

This year’s High School division included 54 teams worldwide. Team CSIA-South Korea won the competition.

The iGEM competition is a team-based international synthetic biology competition in which teams engineer DNA, usually in bacteria, to have applications in health, medicine, food, energy, environment, manufacturing, information processing, or others.

Torrey Pines High School teamed with Canyon Crest Academy as a collaboration team representing San Diego. Team members who went to the competition in Cambridge were: Gha Young Lee (TP, 12, Team Captain), Victoria Ouyang (TP, 12), Christina Baek (TP, 11), Anisa Malangone (TP, 12), Brandon Read (TP, graduated), Evan Kallenberg (TP, graduated), Michael Margolis (TP, 12), Daniel Sands (CCA, 12), Ellen Ouyang (CCA, 11), and Alexander Wen (TP, 10). The instructor for the team was Brinn Belyea (TP).

The team engineered E. coli bacteria to secrete proteins that can get rid of carcinogenic chemicals called mycotoxins that are produced by molds of improperly stored food. Mycotoxins are the third leading cause of cancer deaths, according to the World Health Organization, and affect as much as 15% of all crops, which are usually thrown out once affected.

“Our team’s engineered bacteria would significantly increase the amount of food and prevent cancer. In addition, we made the bacteria move the proteins outside the bacteria, which would make production a lot cheaper and easier,” Gha Young Lee said.

The project was sponsored and supported by Thermo Fisher Scientific, New England Biolabs, UCSD Simpson Joseph Lab, and UCSD Jeff Hasty Lab.