Virus as guardian angel

Students of the BOKU and the University of Vienna were awarded with a gold medal at iGEM, a renowned competition for synthetic biology founded by the MIT in Boston. Alongside 250 international teams and 5000 students, "PHANGEL" was able to convince the jury with a new phage therapy approach to fight sepsis.

Worldwide, up to 11 million people die every year from septic shock. The reason for this is not only an uncontrolled infection, but also the excessive reaction of the immune system. Influenced by the COVID 19 pandemic, Viennese students decided to take advantage of the deadly efficiency of the virus world rather than being intimidated by it. A concept was developed to not only contain the infection underlying septic shock, but also to prevent an overreaction of the immune system. For this purpose, a phage (a virus that only attacks bacteria) is to be genetically modified in order to not only kill infectious bacteria in the bloodstream but also to inactivate their toxins. For this purpose, the phage forces the bacteria - before eliminating it - to produce a protein that binds to the released bacterial toxins and thus prevents sepsis. The team was supervised by Diethard Mattanovich and Martin Altvater from the Department of Biotechnology.  

iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) has been carried out at the MIT in Boston since 2003, and from 2017 with the successful participation of teams from the BOKU. iGEM is not only a competition for students and a great opportunity to connect with teams from all over the world, but also an attempt to make the possibilities of synthetic biology visible for the public. For these reasons, iGEM is still a growing event with thousands of participating students with full of ideas to help make the world a better place can participate.