Westminster 2013 IGEM JOURNAL

Date: 7 February 2013

Today we had our first meeting. A number of ideas were discussed and 6 of the ideas were selected for further research.


First team meeting

Brainstorming session on possible project ideas:

Carbon monoxide detection

Pesticides Alternative

Organic waste degradation

Detection of allergies

Smoke Detector

Treating stomach bugs

The ideas were researched and discussed by the team over the week and a number were eliminated as they were not feasible.



Date: 13 February 2013


Teammate Zeljka Kalinic posts an idea about tackling bed bugs. We all like the idea and it has been added to the list of projects to research.


Date: 20 March 2013


Brainstorming continues and reviewing the previous possible project ideas. The team met again to review our progress.



Date: 27 March 2013


4th Workshop.

Team decides to focus on bedbug idea.

Sub-groups have been created for the research and team-member roles have been allocated.



*Scale of the problem + Economic costs

*Bedbug life cycle

*Extermination methods

*Symbiotic relationships

*Chemicals secreted by the Bedbugs


Date: 29 March 2013


A PhD student, Andy Jenks, who has been helping us, identified Wolbachia as an symbiotic bacterium of bedbugs. The bedbugs need it for the synthesis of B vitamins. We are very excited by this discovery and see Wolbachia is a potential target.


The team has also been doing research on how we would culture the Wolbachia. It seems that they can be cultured in vitro, but it may be a bit tricky. The other option is to grow them in insect cells.


Date: 3 April 2013




This week we have been brainstorming fundraising ideas.

- Science party where quirky drinks are sold in test tubes

- Host a playstation/xbox tournament at Cavendish

- Bake sale

- Fancy dress night

- Movie night

- Personalized t-shirts


Date: 10 April 2013


This week we have been preparing a presentation to present to the Faculty Dean, Dr. Prof. Jane Lewis in a bid for funding.

Also, this week, we have been researching scale of the bedbug problem. Yusuf, Mohit, Krunal and Aishwarya prepared the presentation for the dean.



We attended a synthetic biology exhibition at The Royal Institution of Great Britain, given by Howard Boland, CLab


Date: 15 April 2013


Registration fee paid and team members finalised


Date: 24 April 2013


Brainstormed possible names for the project

Hitbug was chosen.

Decided which fundraising ideas to pursue: Bake sale, movie night, run for research.

Other topics covered:

Outreach: Visiting schools (MadScience), workshops for primary and secondary school students.


Date: 4 May 2013


A meeting with the Westminster activities coordinator for England athletics.


Date: 31 May 2013


Discovered that Wolbachia is difficult to isolate and culture as they do not seem to have plasmids and have been proven extremely difficult to transform.


Not much research on Wolbachia has been done due to the lack of transformation techniques of this bacterium. However, literature shows Wolbachia alters reproduction in the host, but the mechanism is still unknown.


*Other potential methods of tackling bedbugs need to be addressed.



Date: 11 June 2013


Everyone got together to help prepare the cupcakes for the Bake sale.

Great fun, even though the boys didn't know how to work the oven and burnt the cakes!








Date: 12 June 2013 12:00



Bake sale at University of Westminster. Event was a success and the cakes tasted scrumptious! Obtained a lot of interest and questions on our project!






Date: 14 June 2013


Tom has managed to obtain free gastronomy kits for our Gastronomy event! The plan is to sell Heston Blumenthal style food to the public and educate them on synthetic biology and our project.



Date: 20 June 2013


Second event for our Bake sale. After a long and exhausting day we eventually sold every cupcake!







Date: 25 June 2013


Proposition of using the Beauveria Bassiana fungus. The fungus contains a gene, Bbchit1 which codes for chitanase proteins. The chitanase degrades the exoskeleton chitin layer of arthropods.


Proposition of using the Bt toxin as an approach.




Date: 8 July 2013


A proposal of using an induced expression of a toxic protein known as Bt toxin.

B. thuringiensis produces crystal protein inclusions known as endotoxins which exhibit insecticidal activity.


Date: 9 July 2013


Hitbug logo is created!


Date: 10 July 2013


Wolbachia Surface Protein has been identified to help Bt toxin evade the bed bugs immune system. Will attach the WSP on the membrane display protein characterised by Penn iGEM 2012 team.


Date: 12 July 2013


iGEM UK meet-up!

Our team attracted a lot of questions including:


-Safety: Look for compounds excreted by bedbugs to engineer a promotor which would switch the chitanase gene on and off.

-Construct a delivery mechanism to transfer the E.coli to the bed bug.

- Discovered that Bt toxin is harmful to humans- no longer a potential solution.


Research further toxin alternatives.


Date: 26 July 2013


We met Prof. Frank Sargent from the University of Dundee iGEM team who has offered to send us some chitinase genes Serratia marcescens.


Date: 26 July 2013


Cambio has sponsored us with vouchers to perchance some of their product!


Date: 9 August 2013


Meeting with James Logan who is a leading researcher on insects and parasites at London school of Hygiene and tropical medicine - possibility of working with our constructs in his lab.


Date: 13 August 2013

This week we continued to do lab work. Checked overnight culture. Prepared glycerol stock for Serratia marcescens.

Date: 19 September 2013


Date of the Freshers Fair! The team have created a Synthetic Biology Society. Drew lots of interest and many students signed up, even if it was for the freebies :-)


See Lab Notebook for further diary entries:

Many thanks to our Sponsors

by Westminster iGEM 2013