• 11/11/2013

Winning ranks in international student competition

Effective water purification using a moss filter

Students from Technische Universität München (TUM) have achieved an excellent result in the prestigious iGEM competition for Synthetic Biology in the USA, coming second in the “Undergraduates” category. The team developed a genetically modified moss that can act as a cost-effective, renewable mini purifier to remove antibiotics and other drug residues from wastewater.

Katrin Fischer and Ingmar Polte examine moss growth in the lab.
Katrin Fischer and Ingmar Polte examine moss growth in the lab. (Photo: A. Heddergott/TUM)

 The "International Genetically Engineered Machine" (iGEM) competition challenges entrants to modify organisms in such a way that they can perform useful new tasks. The TUM students came up with a ground-breaking idea: They developed a moss that can filter chemicals and drug components from water and break them down – a purification step that is very time-consuming in conventional treatment processes and prohibitively expensive in many regions of the world.

The TUM team had already come second in the 24-and-under age group at the European qualifying rounds. In the final hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge MA, the TUM students held on to this position – not far behind the winners from Heidelberg. This result ranks them among the winning teams from the 223 global participants in this year’s competition. The moss filter also received the award for “Best Environment Project, Undergrad”.

Most of the eleven young researchers who made up the iGEM team are studying molecular biotechnology at the Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan (WZW). The TUM team also included students of biochemistry, mathematics and mechanical engineering.

Prof. Arne Skerra, Chair of Biological Chemistry at TUM and the project mentor, is delighted with the result: “This top placing is a testimony to the excellent interdisciplinary cooperation at WZW. The environmental and plant sciences benefit greatly from basic research, above all in molecular biotechnology. TUM provides the ideal setting to approach research from innovative angles.”

Prof. Dr. Arne Skerra
Technische Universität München
Chair of Biological Chemistry
Tel: +49.8161.71-4351


Technical University of Munich

Corporate Communications Center

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