Pharmacy undergraduate will compete at this year’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition in Boston
Second year UCC Pharmacy student Brandon Malone is travelling to Boston this week to take part in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Science Competition. There will be over 260 teams from universities worldwide taking part in the competition this year. The iGEM Foundation is dedicated to education and competition, advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of open community and collaboration. Brandon was part of a team (also including UCC students Leanne O'Sullivan & Amy Keane - Biomedical Science, Donnchadh O'Sullivan & Aoife O'Brien-Horgan - Medicine & Shama Chilakwad - Biotechnology) working with Dr. Paul Young and Prof. Tommie McCarthy on a summer research project to develop novel tools for the diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections.
Brandon describes the research approach: "Our project is a novel bacterial method of DNA detection. We have developed a customisable, linearised, double stranded plasmid with two sticky overhangs. When the sticky overhangs come into contact with a target sequence, the binding of the DNA sequence to the overhangs circularizes the plasmid. The circularised plasmid is then transformed into competent E. coli cells. Bacterial growth of green fluorescent colonies indicates a positive result, therefore the complementary DNA target sequence was present. This system could act as a cheap alternative to both digital and real time PCR, as target DNA fragments are amplified in living cells without the use of a costly PCR machine. This system was used to detect targets from Mycobacterium tuberculosis & HPV. By improving sensitivity and specificity this system could also be used for the detection of genetic mutations resulting in disease such as cystic fibrosis."