What happens when you connect Synbiota’s (www.synbiota.com) Open Science science platform and Genomikon’s (www.genomikon.ca) synthetic biology wetware standards? A #ScienceHack!
Synbiota’s #ScienceHack is a real research event that connects people around the world to a common goal of solving problems with genetic engineering. A ScienceHacker's quest is nothing less than to engage in real scientific research alongside scientists around the world to solve big problems. This collaboration between Synbiota, Genomikon and YOU presents a paradigm shift in how science research is done as well as the efficiency and rate at which new scientific discoveries are made.
THE PROBLEM: Cancer and Parasites
Research can be slow and medicine can be expensive when it comes to fighting off illnesses. Fortunately, nature has given rise to some incredible creatures that can help.
Violacein is a natural purple compound made by soil-dwelling bacteria that live in the tropics (Chromobacterium violaceum) [Durán et al., 2007]. Violacein is the bacteria’s built-in defense, killing any amoebic creatures, like protozoans, that try to eat it.
As a result, violacein has been hailed as a possible treatment against parasites (Matz et al., 2004; Matz and Kjelleberg, 2005). It has also shown promise as a treatment for cancer, particularly leukemia (Ferriera et al., 2004; Carvalho et al., 2006).
***The World Health Organization estimates that 50 million people worldwide suffer from invasive amoebic infections each year, resulting in 40,000 to 100,000 annual deaths (Haque, 2007).
But a major problem is violacein’s cost, weighing in today at $356,000.00 per gram. This price barrier is unacceptable, and lives are on the line.
Can we hack the pathway to Violacein production in order to dramatically decrease its cost and increase its global abundance? We think we can. Let’s prove it together.
SOLUTION: Violacein Factory
Using the "Genomikon: Violacein Factory" kit with the Synbiota platform, researchers around the world are working in parallel over the next two months to engineer a safe strain of E. coli so that it can make violacein on demand. These researchers are highschool students, undergraduate students, citizen scientists, traditional researchers, and anyone else who wants to get involved.
If through this Open Distributed Genetic Engineering Hack we can identify a DNA design and the experimental conditions that most effectively lower the cost of violacein by creating a strong yield, that would be a stunning scientific accomplishment. We are working towards it with participants across Canada, the US and Europe who have already taken part in this ScienceHack, and the list is growing. Perhaps you can help push us closer to success.
By bringing hundreds and eventually thousands of people together to work in parallel with the forces of Genomikon’s Violacein Factory and Synbiota's open science platform, we can try thousands of experimental combinations to arrive at the best genetic assembly for low-cost violacein production.
Will you join us on this challenge?