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NIS Kazakhstan

Our first collaboration of this year's iGEM season was with NIS Kazakhstan, a high school team who approached us via Instagram wanting to work together on an educational synthetic biology book and video series.

Unfortunately as we were still very early in our project, we were unsure if education would be a priority and could not help them with this project. However we did offer our help as an undergrad iGEM team, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions about logistics or lab protocols.

We discussed each of our projects and addressed NIS Kazakhstan’s questions in an online meeting on 05/07/2023, this was our first meeting with another team and we were very excited about it.

The iGEM team logo of NIS Kazakhstan.
A screenshot of our zoom meeting with the NIS Kazakhstan team

The questions we were sent and answered were:

  1. How to design a dual expression plasmid.
  2. How can they improve the efficacy of PETase?
  3. How are we carrying out lab work?
  4. Where did we buy our reagents & DNA from?
  5. Where can they find or buy MHETase from?
  6. What is our proposed implementation for our project?
  7. How to work with metabolic pathways?

We referred them to some of our lab protocol, our 2019 team wiki which dealt extensively with PETase and MHETase, discussed plasmid design, and recommended the companies we were using for DNA and other reagents.

TU-Eindhoven and McGill

We were approached via Instagram by the iGEM team from TU Eindhoven, who wanted to arrange a collaboration between themselves, the iGEM McGill team, and ourselves.

We had a meeting on 04/07/2023 where we discussed projects and brainstormed possible collaboration ideas.

We settled on creating an in-person street survey to be given to the general public asking about their views on synthetic biology and a question relating to each of our projects. The idea of the survey was that it would be carried out in each of the teams' locations (UK, Canada, Netherlands) and would provide interesting and useful data on how the public's views may differ across countries.

We scheduled a follow up meeting for 13/07/2023, where we would finalise the contents of the survey and discuss the logistics of carrying out such a task.

After this meeting the collaboration was put on a back burner due to our teams struggle with ethics approval, which this survey was included in. Eventually on 06/09/2023 our ethics application was returned, and we did not gain approval to carry out a street survey as discussed.

This was not ideal, but we immediately let the other teams know, and wished them the best of luck in their projects, offering that we were still available to help in any way we could to attempt to make up for the loss of a data source in the survey.

A picture of Theo W on a zoom call with the Eindhoven and McGill teams The iGEM team logo for TU Eindhoven. The iGEM team logo for McGill.

UK Team Meetup

On 05/07/2023, we attended an online meetup of several of the iGEM teams based in the UK, this event was organised by the Edinburgh team, and served to get us all in contact with eachother, exchange project ideas, and act as a springboard for any other potential collaborations.

A screenshot of our virtual UK Team meet up on MS Teams.

In this meeting we spoke to all teams involved, learning about their projects and if they had any crossover with ours. We discovered that Cambridge and Edinburgh’s projects involve biofilms in some capacity, but no further collaboration came of this.

During this meeting the KCL team also brought up their plans for the Biologix collaboration, an educational project they have run for several years and which we participated in this year detailed below.

Biologix Collaboration

We first found out about the Biologix project during the UK team meetup, where the organisers KCL told us about their plans to continue what had been a successful tradition for several years now.

The Biologix project is an educational collaboration between several of the UK teams, where each team chooses/is assigned a topic relating to synthetic biology or iGEM, and produces a comprehensive educational package of presentation slides, a standardized textbook entry, and has the option to use other team's resources to visit schools to deliver lectures.

Education is not a strong focus of our project, so we elected to not deliver lectures in schools, but we still produced an educational package regarding 'iGEM and the Wider World', which is now available for other teams to use.

SynBioUK Science Spotlight

SynBioUK is a student run network spread across the UK's top universities. They run a variety of workshops, blogs, and science spotlights to promote synthetic biology and to help those in the field connect with eachother.

We were made aware of SynBioUK by the Oxford iGEM team, who had organised with them to create a Slack channel for several UK based iGEM teams. SynBioUK then reached out to us asking for a brief project description and some team photos to be featured in a science spotlight all about iGEM.

A LinkedIn post by SynBioUK showcasing the work that our team has been doing. A LinkedIn photo by SynBioUK, it shows our team logo and name CathExe, as well as a brief summary of our project aim.


We were reached out to via Slack by the Oregon team, who wanted to discuss projects as both of our projects revolved around biofilms.

We met virtually on 04/09/2023, where we discussed our ideas and projects, leading to a discussion about ethics and some trouble they had been having using Congo Red to view their biofilms.

Following this meeting we emailed them a copy of our Congo Red protocols and some images of what our biofilms looked like for comparison.

A screenshot of our Zoom call with the Oregon iGEM team A photograph of a Congo Red plate, showing some dark strands indicative of a biofilm. A photograph of a Congo Red plate, showing some dark strands indicative of a biofilm. A photograph of a Congo Red plate, showing some dark strands indicative of a biofilm.

Other blog posts

A screenshot of the IDT blog post featuring the Exeter team. A screenshot of the McMaster iGEM team's blog post featuring the Exeter team.

Our team was also featured in blog posts from both IDT (Integrated DNA Technologies), one of the iGEM Partners, as well as the McMaster iGEM team.