Team:Purdue/Human Practices/iGEM Characterization Standard



Characterization Collaboration

The Biggest Collaboration in iGEM History

The genetic parts in the “Registry of Standardized Parts” are standardized; however, there is currently no standard method to present the information for each part. This year the Purdue iGEM team has set out to create standardized data sheets for the Registry. Standardized data sheets will enable synthetic biologists to gain maximum benefits of and fully understand each genetic part to facilitate future usage. This web-based template system to submit and present genetic part characterization data will promote consistent presentation of information, enabling ease of use.

Although the Purdue iGEM Team is the face behind the standardized datasheet creation, this endeavor could not have been completed without the help of the 79 other iGEM teams with which we collaborated. This large-scale collaboration is unprecedented in the history of the iGEM competition. With a global collaboration of teams in 19 countries, we combined the knowledge and perspectives of numerous synthetic biologists with broad ranges of experience to create the most universal and appropriate datasheet.

There were many phases incorporated into this collaboration process, and teams participated in the collaboration to different extents. We initiated the collaboration process by gathering contact information for as many iGEM teams as possible. With that information, an initial survey was sent to individuals on each team to assess levels of interest and outline our general plan. This survey asked teams to address problems with the current Registry system and to establish which teams were interested in officially collaborating with the Purdue team.

A second survey was then sent out to those teams interested in collaborating, asking each team which assays they are capable of performing to characterize genetic parts, and the teams’ analysis of the importance of each assay. The survey also gathered assurance from each team that a datasheet is an effective way to standardize characterization data in the registry.

To extend our collaboration efforts beyond emails, we video-conferenced with 28 teams. During the videoconferences, each team reviewed our initial draft of the datasheet. Some iGEM teams have a more extensive background in performing certain experimental assays than others. Collectively, we were able to gather the necessary information that pertains to many common assays used to characterize genetic parts. These videoconferences provided us with invaluable information so that we could construct a versatile datasheet template that is applicable to a broad range of genetic parts.

After videoconferencing with each team, we sent out a final survey to each of the collaborating teams, asking for a follow-up evaluation of our draft of the datasheet template as well as any more information on experimental assays. We then created a proof-of-concept software to assess the feasibility of implementing this and the capabilities of different programming languages to create this template datasheet submission system. With limited knowledge in computer programming, the Purdue team collaborated with the Boston University iGEM Team, who focused more on the technical development of the application and the implementation aspects of the project. We actually met with a Boston University team member on Purdue's campus!

Each phase in our collaboration process brought us one step closer to achieving the versatile datasheet that we aimed to create. With the broad ranges of experience and the knowledge ourselves and our collaborators, the overall goal was to create a datasheet that is simple to use and adaptable to all different types of genetic parts. After collaborating with 79 iGEM Teams, the Purdue team feels they have successfully created a standardized datasheet system, and thus constructed an achievable method to standardize the presentation of genetic part information in the Registry.