WUR team in iGEM competition: Aim to detect colorectal cancer with bacterium

Published on
June 7, 2022

The annual International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, organized by the iGEM Foundation has got its kick-start for 2022. The aim of this competition is to solve worldwide problems by means of Synthetic Biology. And with the Grand Jamboree happening in Paris in the end of October, the team from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) have already began working on their project.

This year's WUR team is composed of 11 enthusiastic students from the Biotechnology, Molecular Life Sciences and Biology masters. Guided by equally enthusiastic supervisors from the System and Synthetic Biology and Microbiology chair groups, their journey began in January and has led to the final project: Colourectal. The team’s aim is to develop a next generation diagnostic tool to detect early-stage colorectal cancer by means of coloured faeces, where the name takes inspiration from.


Currently, colon cancer is the third most common and second most deadly cancer worldwide. One of the reasons for this is the lack of sensitive and accurate screening and diagnostic tools. To add to this, current colon cancer diagnosis requires infrequent and invasive colonoscopy procedures, leading to delayed diagnosis. Thus, Colourectal envisions to design a non-invasive diagnostic tool that would allow early diagnosis for everyday screening.

Team photo iGEM 2022

Team Journey

With an extensive toolbox of systems, synthetic and molecular biology techniques, the team will try to tackle this problem. Besides the scientific project, the team will engage with stakeholders, companies and the public to reach as many people as possible. The goal is to integrate feedback from doctors, patients, companies that will allow us to improve the tool and customize it to practical needs.

Word from the captain

Team captain Max: “After a good two months of brainstorming many different ideas, we’re all very excited to work on the project and share our vision with the world. Picking a final project may have been difficult as there are so many possibilities, but I’m confident we’ve only become more certain about our course as we’ve dived deeper into developing Colourectal. While Colourectal may seem ambitious, we’ve been given a chance to work as a team to push the boundaries of synthetic biology and explore new avenues. By the end of iGEM we hope to be able to detect and signal colorectal cancer with the help of our bacterium and in this way show how much is possible using nature’s bacterial toolbox.”