Sep. 21, 2014

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Ten BGU undergraduate students will represent Israel in the prestigiousiGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition for genetic engineering at MIT where they will compete against 250 other student teams from the top universities worldwide. The competition will be held November 1 - November 3, 2014 in Boston, MA.

The team, under the supervision of Prof. Smadar Cohen from the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering is developing an innovative customized treatment for metabolic syndrome. The syndrome is diagnosed in one out of four people in the world's population and includes symptoms such as diabetes and obesity, which are a significant catalyst for life-threatening heart disease.

Today, most of the traditional drugs against the syndrome cause unwanted side effects and only treat the symptoms. The team is working on developing "smart" drugs that are able to respond to body signals post injection and transform their operations in real time. These methods are expected to reduce side effects and improve the efficacy of treatment significantly. The treatment is carried out using biological and engineering methods that are at the forefront of cutting-edge science and are based on personalized treatment.

The team's vision is to create a world in which synthetic biology and genetic engineering will be an integral part of medical treatment for everyone and their project is only the beginning of fulfilling their vision. The team is also working hard on integrating a healthy lifestyle (sports nutrition) and science in order to create a global awareness with an emphasis on technology and innovative research.

To that end, the team organized a special medical experts panel to present their project and cutting edge biological research. The well-known speakers came from various backgrounds such as: Diabetes specialists, personal-medicine physicians, nutritionists and more. The panel took place during the largest entrepreneurial conference in Israel, Innovation 2014, which drew over two thousand high-tech personnel, entrepreneurs, CEOs and other public figures.






This past Friday, the team organized a seminar day for 50 Bedouin students in medical professions, so they can become “Diabetes Ambassadors” to their communities. The event was sponsored by the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship and Hi-Tech Management and in full collaboration with Dr. Yunis Abu-Rabia, a senior physician at Soroka University Medical Center who is an expert on Diabetes and was the first Bedouin doctor in the Negev. They are planning on organizing additional educational activities on synthetic biology and healthy living for the community.

The project is supported by the President of BGU, Prof. Rivka Carmi, The Rector of the University, Prof. Zvi HaCohen, Deans of the relevant Faculties, The Ministry of Science and Technology, The Ministry of Health and many companies.

The previous team from BGU (2013-iGEM BGU) that developed a "self-destruct" mechanism for bacteria was the first team from Israel to reach the world championships at MIT and won several awards such as silver medal, best presentation and more. They were even endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This year, members of the BGU 2014 iGEM team are determined to reach first place, to bring honor to Israel and Ben-Gurion University, but more importantly, to help millions of patients around the world to improve their health and quality of life.

The group's Facebook page