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WLC Recognized at International Competition

November 3, 2016

Band practice

WLC Recognized at International Biotechnology Competition for Fourth Consecutive Year

Milwaukee, WI - A team of 10 students from Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) earned a silver medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 30, 2016. Competing with more than 300 teams from schools in every corner of the world at the iGEM 2016 Giant Jamboree, WLC distinguished itself as the only Wisconsin team in attendance. The team's silver medal places WLC in the company of teams from Cornell, Purdue, Northwestern, and Duke, among others.

The WLC project involved detecting and isolating new viruses against disease-causing bacteria. The student-led team genetically modified a harmless bacterial lab strain to express a small but safe component of an infectious bacterium to look for viruses that infect and kill disease-causing bacteria. The increased prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria makes this project extremely relevant. Additionally, this year's team examined viruses against Serratia marcescens, a bacterium that causes disease in the endangered Elkhorn coral. Elkhorn coral is prevalent in the Caribbean and, along with most of the world's coral reefs, has been devastated. This project aimed to provide a possible solution to the decline of the coral reefs that are vitally important to the world's ecosystem.

In addition to research, the 2016 team excelled in the area of Policy and Practices, which emphasizes the importance of informing others about genetic engineering and biotechnology. This year, the team held informational seminars and coordinated a summer camp with a focus on biotechnology. While the competition requirement is a goal of educating the community about biotechnology, the WLC team has an additional goal - to educate the scientific community about Christians. The 2016 team presented to the scientific community that faith does not weaken or invalidate the ability to conduct scientific research.

Dr. James Henkel, assistant professor of biology at Wisconsin Lutheran College, said: “The WLC 2016 iGEM team is an excellent example of the cross-discipline nature of our team - we have students in the majors of marine biology, biology, biochemistry, and computer science. Our students are an excellent example of Christian scientists, demonstrating that they can be confessional Christians and also conduct award-winning scientific research. Dr. John Werner [assistant professor of biology] and I are incredibly proud of the entire team.”