A Multi-departmental Team Won a Major International Competition on Synthetic Biology

(From left) Dr Richard Kong, Chu Lok Ting (Lyann), Tse Yui Shing (Paul), Choi Hiu Ying (Cas), Chi Kai Kin (Paul), Yeung Sin Yu (Ada), Tse Man Chak (Ronald), Wu Chun Ting (Joanna), Lau Tsz Kit (Ken), Li Lok Yee (Maria), Lo Hiu Fung (Anthony), Lee Cheuk Lam (Cherlin), So Lok Man (Marco), Dr Terrence Lau, Dr David Chiu.

A CityU team, formed by 12 undergraduate students from the departments of BCH and MBE and led by BCH faculty member Dr Richard Kong and BMS faculty members including Dr David Chiu and Dr Terrence Lau, has won a Gold Medal from their first time participation of the International Genetic Engineering Machine (iGEM) competition which was held at Boston, USA.

Their project was on engineering a type of microbe in our intestine, Escherichia coli, into a factory which could transform fats in our food into an essential fatty acid called α-linolenic acid (ALA). The major natural sources of ALA are a few types of seed oil and fatty fish, which are depleting globally because of high demand from the increasing human population.

The engineered E. coli, called Fit Coli, would enhance the conversion of free fatty acids in the gut into ALA which can be taken up by our body and transformed into DHA, which is essential for brain development and cardiovascular health. Increased consumption of DHA could also potentially slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

More information about their achievement can be found at this link from CityU News Centre website.

The team's project website can be found here.

11 December 2014