Costa Rican Students Propose to Treat Bacteria that Cause Diarrhea at IGEM 2019

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    A 9-team of young university students will represent Costa Rica at the “International Genetically-Engineered Machine” (IGEM), the most important synthetic biology competition in the world, which will be held in Boston, from October 31st to November 4th, 2019.

    This is a contest that emerged in 2003, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States. Since that date, the meeting is held every year thanks to the collaboration of strong companies in the medical, biological, and biotechnology industry. Among them: Ginkgo Bioworks, Opentrons, Biolap, and Mathworks.

    In this way, the most prestigious universities participate, such as Harvard, Oxford, Standford, Columbia, the National University of Singapore, the MIT, among others. In total, 362 teams participate, from 46 countries of the world. For Latin America, only Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru participate.

    In the case of the Costa Rican delegation, it will be made up of 5 students from the Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC); 2 from the University of Costa Rica (UCR); and 2 from the National University (UNA), under the name “IGEM Costa Rica”.

    These 9 young people are developing a technology that will treat the bacterium “Clostridium difficile”, a bacterium responsible for diarrhea, colitis, and toxic mega-colis. It is even capable of causing death.

    Bacteria can cause disorders such as diarrhea or colitis

    “Our proposal is to develop a probiotic that detects the bacteria. Once it is detected it will produce a molecule, which will cause death to ‘Clostridium difficile’. We want the probiotic itself to rebuild the intestinal probiotic”, said one of the members, Paula Thiel, student of the Biotechnology Engineering degree at the TEC.

    According to Thiel, who was also the first average of the admission exam to the TEC in 2015, they are currently developing the genetic constructs of the probiotic.

    The Costa Rican project is executed under the supervision of professors David García, a Biotechnology Engineer from TEC, and a PhD in Stefany Solano, from UNA.

    To participate in the event, young people need US $ 40,000 for registration, transportation, food, and lodging expenses. At this time, they still lack US$ 17,000, mainly to pay for the reagents.

    Needless to say, this could be a great opportunity for institutions, private companies or common people to support these talented young people and help them achieve their closest dreams and goals.

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