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Jul 3, 2018

Meetup | SynBio, Cats & Change Makers 分享会 | 合成生物学、猫咪与创变者





It all began with the story of a feral cats rescue team run by Fenghua Li, a 65-year-old woman named Fenghua Li. She has helped hundreds of cats in Beijing since 1998. Every day she gets up at mere dawn to take care of the cats at numerous feeding sites: providing food, water, taking them to the vets for treatment and sterilization. And it's very time-consuming and challenging attract the cats into the designated cat cages merely with cat food. 



Fenghua Li & the two cats she recently rescued.



This year, the iGEM team GreatBay_China, consisting of 13 high school students, finds a solution to solve the above-mentioned problem. They will be able to mass produce nepetalactol, the precursor of nepetalactone— the active principle of catnip.

猫薄荷 (图片来源:Johann Georg Sturm)

Catnip (picture credit: Johann Georg Sturm)



This will require the team to put their knowledge of Synthetic Biology into actual use. 

What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic Biology is one of the most rapidly developing fields in the twenty-first century, a rising star. It engages engineering thinking, combining Biology with other subjects like Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics in order to design and construct artificial biological systems to tackle real-life issues, for example, energy, environmental protection etc. Building genetic circuits are the approach to this goal. Synthetic biologists connect the DNA sequences of different biological parts (promoters, ribosome binding sites, protein-coding sequences, terminators etc.) in a way similar to building electrical circuits, endowing the artificial biological systems with corresponding functions and enabling regulation of these functions by logic gates.


Nepetalactol (photo credit: Wikipedia)



Speaking of nepetalactol, it is a platform molecule, meaning we can synthesize other valuable natural compounds from nepetalactol, such as vinblastine, an anti-cancer alkaloid which is one of the most widely used anti-cancer drugs nowadays. Anyhow, due to its complex structure, chemosynthesis is rather difficult, so it is mainly extracted from the plant. The cost of extraction is high because of the low content of vinblastine in plants, resulting in high price. Therefore, if we can mass produce nepetalactol through microorganisms, and then synthesize vinblastine from nepetalactol, we have a chance to lower the cost of production and price of such anti-cancer drug.




Therefore, the GreatBay_China plans to replace the current attractants with the nepetalactone in order to capture and help those feral cats more efficiently. Right now, they have come up with a bold idea about the use of nepetalactone in promoting the welfare of cats. Would it be possible to create a device, in which nepetalactone is used to create a relaxing & enjoyable environment for the cats? 


 iGEM 国际遗传工程及其大赛 


iGEM logo (图片来源:iGEM.org官网)

iGEM全称International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition(国际遗传工程及其大赛)是美国麻省理工学院创办的合成生物学领域最高级别的国际性学术竞赛。参赛者包括了高中生、本科生、研究生,以小组为单位参赛。参赛队伍需要利用标准化的生物元件构建生物砖 - biobrick,以创造出一个合成生物学项目。在此之外,参赛队伍可以开发新的生物元件,从而使改造生物的过程更加便利。

The International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM for short) is the top academic competition of synthetic biology, founded by MIT. Participants include high school students, undergraduates, and graduate students, compete in teams. Every team must use standardized biological parts to construct bio-bricks with certain functions, thus generates a whole synthetic biology project. Apart from using the characterized biological parts, teams can also develop new parts, bringing more possibility to future teams.

iGEM来自世界各地的参赛队伍合照(图片来源:iGEM.org 官网)



This July, we'll invite team members of GreatBay_China to x.factory, sharing this amazing project with you! Join us to learn about the splendor of synthetic biology and the experience with constructing engineered organisms. Hopefully, through this meetup, the sharing, and your inputs, we can all move a step forward on the path of creating a better life for the lovely cats.


Event Info 

时间:2018年7月6日(星期五)19:30 - 21:30



Time: 19:30 - 21:30, July 6th (Friday)

Location: Chaihuo x.factory (B608, Design Commune, Dashi 2nd Road, Nanshan District, Shenzhen)

Sign up: Click this link to sign up.



 Alexis Zeng 曾家怡


Alexis is a passionate high school iGEMer, an A1 student of Shenzhen College of International Education. She is the team leader of GreatBay_China this year, a former team member of 2017 iGEM team SIAT-SCIE, and the silver award receiver of British Biology Olympiad 2018. Through this opportunity, she hopes to bring the public an insight into the potential and the charm of synthetic biology. Meanwhile, she is a registered rider of both Chinese Equestrian Association and French Federation of Equestrian.

Lucinda Lin 林炜倩


Lucinda Lin(林炜倩)是来自深圳高级中学IBDP的高二生,参加过2017和2018年的iGEM,去年随BGIC-Union(华大基因学院联队)获得银奖,今年担任GreatBay_China(大湾区联队)宣传外联队长。

Lucinda is a senior two IBDP student who has participated in the 2017 (BGIC-Union, silver award) and 2018 iGEM. This year she is a student leader of the team GreatBay_China. She likes the interdisciplinarity and intellectual atmosphere of iGEM. 

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