What work does BIG do?

Project Leads 5.13.2019

BioInnovation Group has seven ongoing research projects, clustered around mechanical/electrical biotechnology and molecular biology. Each project aims to apply biotechnology to solve a real-world problem, while giving students the opportunity to develop valuable technical and leadership skills.

These projects are student run, with varying levels of support and guidance with professors and scientists in industry. Each project has between 5 and 15 undergraduate researchers, and is lead by one to two Project Leads, depending on the size of the project. The Project Leads report to the BIG Leadership Team. Projects are multi-year-long commitments, and opportunities to join existing projects occur intermittently. Four of the project teams presented at the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference in April 2019.

Mechanical/Electrical Biotechnology Cluster

Plant BioPrinter

The Plant Bioprinter project partners with the McDonald lab to develop a 3D Bioprinter that prints gels with transgenic rice cells and Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV).

The gel will immobilize the printed cells and viruses, which can then be used to produce proteins and antibodies. The ultimate goal of this project is develop a perfusion bioreactor which can be used during space exploration to manufacture medicine. We have three sub-teams, focusing on mechanical, cell, and virus research.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact one of the project leads, Anna Rita Moukarzel, at amoukarzel@ucdavis.edu.

Microfluidics

Microfluidics is a discipline of fluid dynamics that revolves around manipulating very small quantities of solutions. Using fluids on the micro- and picoliter scales can enable researchers to execute high throughput and cost effective experiments. However, microfluidic devices and chips tend to be expensive. Thus, we are building MiniDrops, a sub $550 microfluidics controller designed by William Stevenson, and producing 3D printed chip molds as an inexpensive alternative to traditional microfluidic controllers and chips. While there are many potential uses for droplet microfluidics, our initial application is geared towards helping with sample preparation for single cell transcriptomic studies. This will enable students and faculty to study what individual cells in complex populations are doing.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact one of the project leads, Ares Torres, at aatorres@ucdavis.edu.

Molecular Biology Cluster

Real Vegan Cheese

The Real Vegan Cheese project aims to manufacture casein, the major protein in milk products, using genetically engineered yeast. Hopefully, this will lead to animal-free manufacturing of cheese and other dairy products. This has the potential to prevent a tremendous deal of resource waste and animal suffering, if the technology can be successfully scaled up.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact the project lead, Jessica Lee, at famlee@ucdavis.edu.

Algae to Insulin

The Algae to Insulin project aims to manufacture insulin in a more economically competitive and environmentally friendly manner by genetically engineering algae. Insulin is one of the world’s most valuable medicines, and is necessary to treat diabetes, a disease which affects 30.3 million Americans. We are interested in the use of algae as a biological manufacturing platform due to the low cost and renewable qualities of the inputs to the system.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact the project lead, Daniel Graves, at drgraves@ucdavis.edu.

Bioassay Optimization (HM Clause Sponsored Project)

The HM Clause team aims to develop a more economically and time efficient ELISA to be used in virus detection in plant tissue. The ELISA assay is one of the most widely used immunological assays, however, it is also one of the longest as well. Depending on what the test is being used for and how it is done, it can take up to 24 hours to get results. In the agricultural industry, where this test is used to determine if a plot or even field is infected, those 24 hours can be crucial to prevent the spread of the disease. Which is why the team is interested in using reaction properties and chemistry to make the assay more efficient.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact the project lead, Natalia Franco-Hernandez, at nfrancohernandez@ucdavis.edu.

Mammalian Synthetic Biology

The Mammalian Synthetic Biology project grew out of the 2018 iGEM at UC Davis project, Cenozoic. The objective of this project is to develop a mammalian cell-based bioassay for use in environmental toxicology. In particular, we are interested in the use of stress-sensitive inducible promoters to communicate physiological state of mammalian cells.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact the project lead, Jacob Lang, at jaclang@ucdavis.edu.

2019 iGEM at UC Davis

iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, is the world’s premier synthetic biology research competition. In iGEM, teams from universities all around the world compete to solve real-world problems using synthetic biology. At the end of the summer, teams present at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2014, the UC Davis team won the grand prize for their olive oil rancidity biosensor, and in 2018 the UC Davis team won Best Measurement.

The current team will be working on a project in the area of mammalian synthetic biology.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, you can contact the project lead, Jessica Lee, at famlee@ucdavis.edu.