IGEM Competition 2019


The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is a worldwide synthetic biology competition with the use of both biological, biotechnology and chemical knowledge that was initially aimed at undergraduate university students, but has since expanded to include divisions for high school students, entrepreneurs, and community laboratories, as well as 'overgraduates'. IGEM competition originated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004. This year, iGEM 2019 competition attracted a total of 7,500 contestants in 344 teams from 45 countries and regions.


Our team is jointly co-operated with Pui Ching Middle School to participate in the competition. The event will be held at Hynes Convention Center, Boston, U.S.A. from 31 October to 4 November 2019. Our school has selected 12 students with two leading teachers, Mr Pang Kam Man and Mr Fung Chi Tuen who have gone to participate this competition and attended the conference from 28 October to 7 November 2019.



The main focus of our research topic is to formulate a new synthetic biological enzyme to solve the elevated level of uric acid in our body so as to reduce the associated health risks including kidney stone and cardiovascular disease. The aims of the research are outlined below:

  1. The biobricks for production of uricase can successfully catalyze the breakdown of uric acids.
  2. The development of uric acid sensor gene in the plasmid of E. coli to prevent cells from exhausting.
The timeline of our work:

Hyperuricemia, an elevated level of uric acid due to the high purine diet causes health problems including gout, renal and vascular disorders. Uric acid cannot be removed naturally in human, 7mg/dL in serum would facilitate the formation of crystals in joints causing gout. Traditional injection of pegloticase would catalyze the conversion of uric acid to allantoin associated with inciting immunogenicity side effect. With a deeper understanding of degradation on uric acid, 5-hydroxyisourate (HIU) hydrolase and uricase are the enzymes involve in different stages for complete decomposition of uric acid. Our project aims to synthesize uricase and HIU hydrolase using E.coli. Nissle 1917, future application of uricase would be considered as a potential non-invasive therapeutic approach to lower the uric acid in humans. Questionnaires on dietary intake of food and human perception with different stakeholders on the treatment of gout using E.coli will be crucial for the direction of our research.


Future application

Throughout the biological-mathematical modelling, we can predict how much purine consumed and how much probiotics E. coli intake to level off the elevated uric acid level in human without compromising much on the dietary choices.


Together with other two Hong Kong Teams, We won the Gold Medal this year, it is the first time of Hong Kong High School teams to have a gold medal award. We are the top 25 % of all high school teams around the world including Korea, USA, United Kingdom, Mexico, Hungary, Spain etc. Meanwhile, we share the gold award as other university graduate participant this year such as MIT. Moreover, our team participants are of 15 years old during registry, the youngest group in those participants. The results we made are out-competed with other teams such as HKU, HKUST, University of Stanford and University of Washington.


Moreover, we also fight for the special award for biological-mathematical modelling of our work which comprises higher order mathematical work including differentiation, integration, university level statistical analysis to make prediction of the dosage intake of our synthetic biological probiotics E.coli to cure gout. We are one of the 18 nominees out 340 teams.