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Project Overview

GENOMIKON: an Educational Toolkit for Rapid Genetic Construction

Genetic manipulation using synthetic biology is a technology with unlimited potential. Unfortunately, its teaching is currently confined to universities, where students have chosen to specialize in science. Recognizing that many of the basic principles and methods are easily explained, the University of Alberta sought to expand the accessibility of synthetic biology by creating a teaching package capable of working within a high school environment, which exposes young minds to genetic technology. To construct the kit, known as GENOMIKON, we first optimized the BioBytes 2.0 assembly method created by the University of Alberta 2009 team. The experiments of the kit were then designed to be done quickly, reliably, and with very limited equipment. To make GENOMIKON useful as a classroom resource, an interactive lab manual was created to guide students through their experiments. Lastly, we looked at how best to distribute this kit into students’ hands. GENOMIKON is a major advancement for synthetic biology because it shows the next generation of students how biology can work as an engineering discipline and functional technology, even before they enter post-secondary education.

BioByte Theory

The DNA components of the GENOMIKON kit will be provided in linear pieces called BioBytes. These Bytes have 4 base 5' overhangs on both ends, which gives specificity to the Bytes that can neighbor it. BioBytes come in two flavors: 'AB Bytes' and 'BA Bytes', which are defined by the composition of the overhangs it has. The result is that AB Bytes can only be ligated to BA Bytes and vice versa. This leads to a construct alternating in AB and BA Bytes. The specificity in absolute order of a construct is given by an anchor, which restricts ligation to only one side.


The GENOMIKON kit was designed for a high school environment. The major challenge facing the GENOMIKON kit was that high schools lack most lab equipment traditionally needed for molecular biology. Creating a sterile environment to avoid contamination was another challenge that had to be overcome. Fortunately, the BioByte 2.0 assembly method does not require centrifuges, thermocyclers or extreme accuracy with regards to volume and temperature. The only equipment a high school must supply then is a hot plate, thermometer, and a beaker. The issue of sterility is addressed by sending reagents in individual sterilized packages. The kit sends everything that a high school would need to perform the transformations using synthetic parts.


For the GENOMIKON kit to be functional, students and teachers need access to a lab manual that can accommodate the many different experiments possible. The GENOMIKON lab manual was designed to act as a teaching resource, giving students background information for the experiments they design. GENOMIKON ONLINE was created as the lab manual complementary to the GENOMIKON kit. GENOMIKON ONLINE is found at the website, Features include: descriptions of the different parts used to construct a plasmid, a toolkit where students can engineer their own creative expressions by dragging and dropping different parts into sequence to automatically generate a protocol to follow. Students can also do predetermined experiments outlined and collect background information by reading articles. Lastly, the teacher can coordinate the class experiments by working through the groups feature.