Team:St Andrews


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University of St Andrews' team for 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine competition

Alternative omega-3 production and novel metal recovery methods

University of St Andrews coat of arms

Metal binding protein

Precious and toxic metals from car catalysts frequently find their way into the environment. By developing metal-binding proteins, we can reverse metal aggregation on our roads. This not only reduces the environmental impact of personal transportation, but will proffer a new man-made mine of precious metals.

ω−3 fatty acids synthesis

ω-3 fatty acid is a key component of the healthy human diet. The nutrient is only synthesized naturally in a handful of organisms (algae and oil-rich plants). Our team partially recreated the pathway for ω-3 production in E. coli using genes from the cyanobacteria Synechocystis, despite the difficulty of working with membrane-bound proteins. Until now, synthetic ω-3 production has only been achieved in plants.

Scientific impact of iGEM

We investigate the relationship between the iGEM competition and the rest of the scientific community. Is iGEM really having scientific impact? How often, how fairly and by whom are iGEM teams cited? Does the iGEM competition result in scholarly articles being published? What can guarantee continued recognition within the SynBio community?

The mathematics of ω-3

We modelled fish population dynamics. Our result: if we continue fishing in the current manner, by 2100, only a fraction of present day biomass will remain. Yet, there is hope. Indeed, realizing Team St Andrews' alternative production of omega-3 could be the measure necessary to save our seas. We investigated the effect that alternative production can have on future fish biomass, as well as the practicalities of preserving life in this manner.



The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premier undergraduate synthetic biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. This project design and competition format is an exceptionally motivating and effective teaching method.


Offline project summaries

These are the downloadable versions of our project summaries:


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University of St Andrews, 2012.

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This iGEM team has been funded by the MSD Scottish Life Sciences Fund. The opinions expressed by this iGEM team are those of the team members and do not necessarily represent those of Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited, nor its Affiliates.