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BIOMOD competition educates and inspires

The annual biomolecular design competition showcases the work of hundreds of undergraduates from around the world

2017 BIOMOD participants. Credit: JRumans Photography

Young biomolecular designers from around the globe gathered in San Francisco on November 4th and 5th to participate in the 7th annual BIOMOD Jamboree. Teams of students and mentors worked on nanotechnology design projects throughout the summer, and then traveled to the Jamboree to present their work and compete for awards. Projects were evaluated not only based on their scientific validity and presentation, but also their teams’ ability to explain and justify their work on their required project website and YouTube video.

The first place winners were the Capsid Constructors, a group of undergraduates from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Their project investigated the spontaneous construction of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in living systems and attempted to recreate the way that the HIV viral capsid undergoes self-assembly to better understand its function and structure. They used the novel technique of DNA origami to help assemble the capsid, which surrounds and protects the genetic material of the virus. Watch a video explaining their project here:

The Capsid Constructors team of the University of New South Wales, Sydney describes their project which won first place at the 2017 BIOMOD competition. Credit: Capsid Constructors

The second prize went to team Sendai from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, for their creation of a self-healing DNA-containing hydrogel in which DNA molecules embedded within the hydrogel can repair the gel using hybridization chain reactions. Their research may contribute to the development of novel self-healing materials and artificial tissues in medical applications. Team MultiBrane from the Technische Universität Berlin took home the third prize for developing a scaffold which could potentially be attached to any functional molecule to facilitate pollutant-adapted water treatment.

The BIOMOD competition was founded by Shawn Douglas, Ph.D., while a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute. Douglas is currently an Assistant Professor at University of California San Francisco’s Department of Cellular Molecular Pharmacology. The competition was conducted at the Wyss Institute from 2011 to 2015 and inn 2016, the BIOMOD Foundation, based in San Francisco, assumed management. Its mission is to inspire a generation of students to learn to engineer biomolecules at the nanometer scale. Over 1,200 students from 15+ countries have participated in the competition since its inception.

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