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November 15, 2017

Pak students win silver at world competition


November 15, 2017


PESHAWAR:  A group of Pakistani students has won a silver medal at an international competition arranged in the United States.

The iGEM (International genetically engineered machines) competition is a flagship student competition that started in MIT and has been happening for the last 15 years with over 300 teams from across the globe.

The students, making Pakistan’s first team, gathered at CECOS University Peshawar this summer to use the cutting-edge discipline of synthetic biology to solve one of the most pressing environmental challenges the country is facing. This was done as a part of project by CECOS University in collaboration with the Directorate of Science & Technology (DoST), KP.

Like last year, the team was hosted by Dr Faisal Khan’s research lab at the Institute of Integrative Biosciences, CECOS University.

The team consisted of two girls and 10 boys from cities including Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swabi, Mardan, Lahore, Attock, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Khyber Agency. It was a diverse group of young scientists from across the country.

This year’s IGEM Peshawar team worked towards developing a reporter fish – a fish that can detect heavy metal contamination in fresh water and in response to it, change the color of its body.

The team designed and built the genetic (DNA) circuits needed for this function and tested them in bacterial cells.

The team believes this would have a direct impact on the livelihoods of fish farmers and the health of fish consumer across the country.

With this year’s inter-disciplinary team that included computer scientists and engineers, IGEM Peshawar also designed and developed a digital interface for the biosensor system which they named MAX. MAX is an Arduino-based digital component which can be used by bacterial cells to automatically send the end-user (a fish farmer, for example) text alerts over the mobile phone.

This was for the first time a human-bacterial interface was presented at the competition and got Silver Medal. “Who would have thought a bacterial culture could be plugged into an arduino,” said Dr Faisal Khan, the supervisor of the project.

“Dr. Faisal Khan and his brilliant team deserves huge praise and felicitation for bringing this unprecedented triumph and honor to CECOS University, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan,’’ said Prof. Dr. Riaz A. Khattak, Vice-Chancellor CECOS University, Peshawar.

He acknowledged the generous support of the KP government under DoST Initiatives, which enabled the team of IIB, CECOS to win Silver Medal at the international competition contested by 300 teams all over the world in Boston, USA.




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