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Project Description

The tailings ponds that result from the extraction of heavy crude oil and bitumen (used to make synthetic crude oil) from the oil sands have used up vast amounts of fresh water and contain substantial quantities of useable organic matter. While most of the bitumen is extracted from the oil sands, some is left behind and added to the tailings ponds. The residual hydrocarbon compounds can be potentially extracted from the ponds and utilized as another source of fuel. Consequently, cleaning the tailings ponds and increasing efficiency of extraction from the oil sands.

We wish to develop and characterize a BioBrick, that can breakdown some of the more prominent toxic organic compounds found in the tailing ponds to a more useable form. We are currently targeting catechol, a aromatic compound shown to be degraded by bacteria living in the tailings ponds (Kato et al., 2001). Catechol is being converted into 2-hydroxymuconic semialdehyde, which we later hope to further convert into a useful hydrocarbon compound.

Additionally, we plan to target our catechol degrading enzyme into a microcompartment which the Lethbridge 2009 team began the work on. By compartmentalizing the converted catechol, were trying to develop a way of easily removing the useful hydrocarbon product from the tailings ponds. As a proof of principle, we will target the catechol degradation enzyme into the negatively charged microcompartment by the use of a poly-arginine tag. Furthermore, to avoid adding a new species into the oil sands environment we plan on using the DNA digestion part created by Berkley in 2007 to render our Escherichia coli cells unable to reproduce or able to horizontally transfer its genes.

Finally, we will be continuing to explore the novel method of the mass production of uniform iron nanoparticles, which is more efficient and cost effective than current methods (Prozorov et al., 2007). To optimize the production of nanoparticles we are attaching signal peptide sequences to export the protein to different areas of the cell. By attaching these signal peptides and having the protein directed to certain areas of the cell we hope to find which area is most productive to produce nanoparticles.

Kato, T., Haruki, M., Imanaka, T., Morikawa, M., and Kanaya, S. (2001). Isolation and characterization of psychrotrophic bacteria from oil-reservoir and oil sands. Applied Microbial Biotechnology. 55, 794-800.
Prozorov, T., Mallapragada, S. K., Narasimhan, B., Wang, L., Palo, P., Nilsen-Hamilton, M., Williams, T. J., Bazylinski, D. A., Prozorov, R., and Canfield, P. C. (2007). Protein-mediated synthesis of uniform superparamagnetic magnetite nanocrystals. Adv. Funct. Mater. Advanced Functional Materials. 17, 951-957



Alberta Innovates Technology Futures

Oil Sands Initiative







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Sponsorship Breakdown

The University of Lethbridge iGEM Team requests your support in the following ways:

a) $2000 scholarship of one team member – It is our hope that every team member will be able to travel to the iGEM competition taking place in November 2010. However, without enough funding, this will not be the situation. By sponsoring one student at a time, we can work towards reaching our goal of the entire U of L team traveling to MIT and provide every student with the possibility to meet and talk to some of the brightest and inspiring minds of synthetic biology.

b) Monetary donation towards lab supplies, travel arrangements and iGEM competition registration fees.

c) Tangible donations of lab supplies or other necessary materials.

Donations can be made in two ways:

1. Donations can be directed towards the U of L iGEM Scholarship account.

2. Donations can be directed towards the U of L iGEM General account and in recognition of your generous support, the U of L iGEM team would like to recognize you and/or your business as outlined in the sponsorship levels.

Sponsorship Levels

Platinum - $5000+ or gift in kind
Logo on team shirts, large logo on scientific poster, large logo on team wiki and verbal recognition during team project presentations/media interviews.

Gold - $2000-$4999 or gift in kind
Logo on team shirts, medium logo on scientific poster, medium logo on team wiki and written recognition at end of team project presentations.

Silver - $1000-$1999 or gift in kind
Medium logo on team shirts, scientific poster, medium logo on team wiki and written recognition at end of team project presentations.

Bronze - <$999 or gift in kind
Small logo on team shirts, scientific poster, small logo on team wiki and written recognition at end of team project presentations.