The NDC Synthetic Biology team has many new members this year, many of them in grade 7! They have been working on continuing their fatberg breakdown project that the team took to iGEM competition in 2018. This project involves using a bacteria engineered to produce an esterase enzyme to break down triglycerides, which are a main ingredient in fatty obstructions in wastewater systems. The team is also looking to add a part or plasmid that will take the fatty acid biproducts (from when the fat is broken down) and convert them to biofuel. The students have already looked at preexisting parts and are even considering upgrading the esterase to a lipase. Overall the goal is to make the current plasmid more effective while designing a new part that will help convert the products into something useful.
The team showcased this project for students’ family members one evening in November, where they also tried out painting with bacteria using a kit from Amino Labs. They also hosted a Girl Guides night in November where some team members taught some elementary school students about synthetic biology and led them in painting with bacteria.
In order to test their bacteria for the fatberg project, the team has researched more ways of testing for lipids and lipid breakdown. They recently visited their mentors from FREDsense at their lab in order to do some of this testing, as well as to give the new team members experience with some lab protocols, and to brainstorm possible next projects. At the moment the team is not sure how much further they can take the current fatberg project based on some models that suggest large amounts of bacteria may be needed to breakdown relatively small amounts of lipids in the fatberg. However, they will for sure pursue that project through their collaboration with Amino Labs to try to produce an Amino kit based on their esterase enzyme. In the meantime they are exploring ideas spanning topics such as producing biofuel and using bacteria to help clean up pollution, making sure their new team members are comfortable with lab protocols, and looking forward to the wet lab in March