DTU iGEM Team 2017: Detecting Snake Venom with Synthetic Biology

The team won a silver medal for their project.

 The team attended or hosted the following events in 2017:

  • BioBrick Tutorial (Hosted the event)
  • Nordic iGEM Conference
  • 12th Danish Conference on Biotechnology and Molecular Biology (DCB12)
  • European iGEM symposium
  • 2017 International Synthetic & Systems Biology Summer School (SSBSS 2017)

The team was fortunate enough to have received grants from the contributors listed below. Without their economic support, we wouldn't have been able to afford working on this project.


The 2017 BioBuilders team developed a new method to diagnose snake envenomings, using synthetic biology to produce substrates, targeting the distinctive venom proteases of different snake families.


Envenomation by snakebite is one of the most neglected diseases with an estimated 5 million bites. These result in about 100,000 deaths and 400,000 disabilities annually. Currently, the only effective treatment is animal derived antivenom, which frequently causes adverse reactions. As a result, they are often responsible for significant side effects.

One of the major problems related to treatment of snakebites concerns the lack of identification of the snake. When bitten, it is difficult for most people to remember details about the snake, which makes it almost impossible to confidently administer the correct specific antivenom. Currently, if the snake cannot be identified, multispecies antivenom is used necessitating a higher aggregate dose potentially leading to more severe side effects.
By solving the venom identification problem, the survival rate of snakebite victims could be improved. This is due to decreased diagnosis time and lower amount of antivenom required for treatment, thereby causing fewer adverse reactions in the patient.

The aim of the project was to create a novel diagnostic platform using synthetic biology derived protease activity assay. This assay was developed to identify specific venom enzymes through their activity on our engineered substrates., and could be used to investigate the relative composition of specific venom components in a blood sample. The goal was to create a diagnostic tool that would make it possible for a clinician to quickly determine which antivenom is necessary, or if it is necessary at all.
Read more about the team and the project in their wiki at the iGEM homepage.



Christopher Workman
Associate Professor
DTU Bioengineering
+45 45 25 27 00

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