Page 36 - Independent Schools Magazine
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 Boys develop new way to diagnose cancer
A team of 17-year old boys at the City of London School have won a gold medal and four special prizes at the iGEM  nals in the USA, working on a novel technique to diagnose cancer easily, cheaply and at a curable stage.
Seven sixth formers, accompanied by Head of Biology Mr Adam Zivanic and Biology teacher Dr Kerry Pattison, presented their project to the international synthetic biology community. With 295 teams and hundreds of experts from every continent, this is considered the “molecular biology world cup”.
The City team’s project involved detecting lung cancer early
with a genetic circuit that they created. Lung cancer accounts for 1.69 million deaths annually and usually presents late. By detecting tumours early, they are far easier to operate on, massively improving survival rates. The project could be developed into a cheap and effective diagnostic tool, with real world applications.
The team designed their own genetic parts in a way that their  nal sensor would be usable outside the lab without need for any microbes, thus being very
safe. They also mathematically modelled their project to improve their design, spoke with leading doctors and other experts to create a clinical implementation strategy (integrated human practices) as well as creating software and hardware tools. These included a synthetic biology voice assistant that works on Amazon Alexa and Google assistant, an app to speed up the design process and a £4 portable  uorometer to measure the output of their test.
Competing against 40 other high schools from across the world, the team were delighted to receive
a gold medal, re ecting their exceptional project. The medals criteria is the same for schools, undergraduate and postgraduate teams. The fact that university teams including Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Warwick won bronze, puts City’s gold achievement into perspective.
The team were also nominated for seven special awards and
won four for best software, hardware, integrated human practices and composite genetic part. They were also nominated for best education and public engagement, mathematical model and website. No high school
team was nominated for or won more awards.
Richard Brookes, Acting
Head, commented: “This is a tremendous achievement for
the boys and staff involved.
This is unique amongst British schools, and re ects the quality of thought and dedication that has gone into the project here
at City of London School. We are incredibly proud of the team, and we look forward to further contributions to the progress of science from them in the future – they have certainly set the bar high for their successors in the School.”
 36 Independent Schools Magazine
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