A team of 12 students from IISER Pune won a Gold medal at the 2021 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) synthetic biology competition.

The aim of the project was to develop a sustainable model for synthesising chemical compounds using a co-culture of two bacterial strains, avoiding methods that involve carbon emitting petrochemicals or resource intensive plant biomass.

The team titled this approach as “Synbactory”. As a proof of concept, the team designed the bacterial co-culture to produce butanol, a chemical with applications as fuel. The results were announced during IGEM’s annual jamboree held from November 4th to 14th. Ashwin Uday, a team member, said, “Synbactory is a sustainable model for chemical synthesis through a cod-culture of cyanobacteria, Synechococcus elongates, and e. coli that can convert light and carbon dioxide into useful compounds. which are otherwise synthesised through carbon emitting petrochemicals or resource intensive plant biomass”

According to the students, this solution will capture the existing carbon emission in the atmosphere and prevent new emissions from being generated at the source by reducing current reliance on carbon emitting petrochemical feedstocks.