Team:UNSW Australia/Collaborations


The depth of study in contemporary science has meant that an individual or team’s knowledge ‘base’ is becoming increasingly more specialised. As a result, no individual team or person can tackle problems in the most efficient way on their own – and so it is collaborative efforts between teams that pave the way for scientific progress. International collaboration is particularly valuable, as it exposes teams to completely new ways of thinking about a problem. We, the UNSW iGEM team, want to sincerely thank all our collaborators – you have all made us think about our ‘problem’ in new ways.

Click on the team logos below to read about our collaborations.


Team Visit

A member of our UNSW team also met with the NTUA (Athens) team between the 16th and 20th of July in Athens. The Athens team gave us a tour of their workspace at the Athenian Pasteur Institute, where we shared protocols and techniques regarding staining using Ethidium bromide in protein gel electrophoresis, as well as their unique method of casting agarose gels. Furthermore, during our meetings we discussed potential issues we may have with our project such as the covalent of the prefoldin to the enzyme with the Tag and Catcher mechanism may chemically alter the enzyme thus inhibiting action. After further research, this was dismissed due to previous literature on the Tag and Catcher systems proving otherwise. After this visit, there was continual discussion online, with the teams sharing relevant papers and international grant opportunities they had found. We provided suggestions to help them with expressing proteins.

Paris Bettencourt

Project and Modelling Collaboration

We reached out to Paris Bettencourt after discovering that their project also involved enzyme scaffolding, keen to discuss the ideas and issues with our projects. We spoke with Paris Bettencourt over Skype on the 11th of July and both teams made helpful suggestions for the other’s project extension. We also discussed the types of models we planned to use with our scaffolds. Bettencourt asked for project modelling advice, which we provided by suggesting that they could use MatLab and Molecular Dynamics for their model, as we were in the middle of building our modelling tools. As part of this, we also sent them a copy of the code of our model to assist them. Bettencourt assisted our team by sharing laboratory techniques, and putting us in contact with a Parisian team (the Pasteur Institute Paris team) who were also considering the legal dimensions of their project as an element of their human practices.

One of Bettencourt’s enzyme scaffolds was based on the StarScaffold system developed by the 2016 Melbourne University team. Bettencourt asked us to try reach out to them for more information as they had no luck contacting them. We contacted the team leader from 2016 through our 2016 team mentors, and emailed the PI of the project, however, we also had no luck with receiving a reply.

Pasteur Paris

Human Practices Legal Collaboration

Our UNSW team also contacted the Parisian Pasteur Institute’s team via Skype, following the earlier suggestion by Bettencourt. Initial email contact had led us to ask Pasteur a series of tricky legal questions with which we were having trouble, but needed to understand for part of our human practices. The Pasteur team kindly wrote a summary of both the French patent system and how the European Union affects (and does not affect) this law, as intellectual property is a supporting competence in the European Union so there is exclusive national jurisdiction.

The Skype call expanded on these questions, and we compared the systems in which our different teams were working. They also spoke about the Paris High Court, a specialist intellectual property court, which led to further research, and eventually formed the basis of one of the suggestions for improving the law’s relationship with science elucidated in our policy proposal. It also laid the ground for our team’s further consultation with Dr Alexandra George.

Macquarie Australia

Lab and Human Practices Collaboration

The Macquarie University team were our main collaborators throughout the iGEM experience, being the only other team based in Sydney. Once we were aware that they were going to have a 2018 team, we reached out and met with them on July 18, 2018. They kindly gave us a tour of their lab space, and as they were just beginning their project, we gave them advice surrounding the more challenging aspects of group laboratory work and iGEM requirements. We then continued to support each other through meet-ups and Facebook Messenger group chats, and both teams agreed to inform each other of any funding opportunities that we discovered.

Our major collaboration with Macquarie was hosting a meet-up as part of running our well- attended symposium ‘Challenges for Synthetic Biology in the Australian Innovation Landscape’. We invited Macquarie to present their project for 10 minutes at the beginning of the evening as well, in order to practice their presentation skills, which they did. It also gave both teams an opportunity to get feedback on their presentation, and speak to industry and academic experts for further extension of the human practices requirements. Matthew Kearnes, one of the panellists, gave specific ideas and feedback to both teams about how they might incorporate philosophy and ethics into their human practices. Through our symposium, Macquarie were also able to introduce themselves to one of the panelitst, Hugh Goold, who they later went on to interview for their human practices.

Macquarie have also supported us in the lab, providing us with two of the transformed cell lines for the InterLab study (with BioBrick Parts 2L and 2N) due to technical issues on our end with our transformations. We also offered them help with the modelling of their project.

Towards the end of the competition, Macquarie asked if we could perform Confocal Microscopy for their project. Unfortunately, after looking into the facilities at our university our mentors and supervisors with experience using the equipment advised us that the required training to operate the equipment would take time both teams didn’t have.

ZJU China

Skype Call

Our team also spoke to the ZJU team over Skype on the 25th of July, after contacting them because we noticed the similarities in our projects. ZJU are also developing a scaffold which uses a Tag/Catcher system.

Our team sent ZJU the FASTA sequence files of our alpha and beta prefoldin proteins with attached Spy and Snoop catchers, and they sent us back sequence files for SdyTag/SdyCatcher, SpyTag/SpyCatcher, and SnoopTag/SnoopCatcher systems.

Our teams also agreed to collaborate by sharing relevant purification and Tag/Catcher protocols and discussing the use of these Tag/Catcher systems. We also discussed possibly sending our scaffolds to each other, but this was not possible due to the strict Australian biosecurity regime. Lastly, we shared suggestions for increasing expression activity in our similar projects – for example, extending the linker in the binding mechanism that joins prefoldin and enzyme.