Local team in competition to build with the molecules of life

team echidnaTeam EchiDNA from Sydney is the Southern Hemisphere’s first ever entrant in the BIOMOD competition.

I have to say, BIOMOD is no ordinary competition. Undergraduate teams “compete to build the coolest stuff using the molecules of life”. Previous winners have used DNA, RNA, and proteins as building blocks to create autonomous robots, molecular computers, and prototypes for nanoscale therapeutics. How amazing is that?

Our national team is representing the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. The team is drawn from the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, and collectively team members span Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Medical Sciences, Neuroscience, Microbiology, Nanoscience, Industrial Design, Economics and Anthropology. The team says that they “hope that through this team and the BIOMOD competition we will create excitement about bio- and nano-technology research amongst undergraduates in Sydney and across Australia”.

The team is made up of Andrew Tuckwell, Robbie Oppenheimer, Nick Berg, Anirudh Balachandar, Jon Berengut and Cyril Tang. Students lead projects each Northern summer and then travel to Harvard in early November to present their work and, hopefully, win awards.

The team are working on creating a biosensor that is tuneable and ultra-sensitive, inspired by the design of natural biosensors: “Our design is modular, so that the DNA targeting by our biosensor might be anything – an HIV virus, a mutation associated with cancer, a gene causing antibiotic resistance. AND, our biosensor will also be built from DNA!!”.

They are crowd-funding through Fund Science Australia to cover the costs of the project and trip, and really they deserve a bit of support for their very modest funding goal.

It’s just great to see Australia represented in cutting-edge activities like this. And being a lover of a good pun, I do appreciate their choice of team name.

All that said, can I just add that the quivering little mammal in me does have some qualms about the words “build the coolest stuff using the molecules of life”? I’m sure we’re in good hands though…

Support Team EchiDNA here.

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