University of Melbourne students reaching for the stars with DSI support

DSTO’s and DSI’s Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative, led by DSTO Principal Research Scientist Dr Gulay Mann, supported a team of twenty enterprising undergraduate science and engineering students to join the 2014 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition held in Boston, USA. The iGEM competition provides a vehicle for teams of students to contribute to the evolution of the synthetic biology discipline and to demonstrate their skills in cutting edge research in the field.

This year, the Melbourne iGEM team (mentored and encouraged by the leaders in Biochemistry and Dental Sciences disciplines including Associate Professors Heung-Chin Cheng, Paul Gooley, Neil O’Brien-Simpson, and Dr Angus Johnston) worked on programming E. coli to produce star peptides star-shaped peptides with applications as drug delivery vehicles and next generation antibiotics, winning a bronze medal for their efforts.

“Working at this intersection of biotechnology and biomaterials has been really exciting,” said Sean Lowe, a chemical engineering student who led the team. “It provided us with the opportunities to apply our science and engineering skills and develop our scientific leadership that was unmatchable.”

Dr Mann leads DSTO’s Synthetic Biology initiative, and said “The support of the Defence Science Institute allowed the Melbourne team to participate in iGEM and is directly enabling DSTO’s goals of engaging with universities in this exciting emerging domain.”