Santa Cruz Tech Beat


iGEM team plans to produce sweeteners from agricultural byproducts

By Sara Isenberg
Founder, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

August 2, 2016 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Photo above: This is iGEM team’s bioreactor circuit board. Source: iGEM Facebook page.)

“The world of crop production is laden with agricultural co-products that are unfit for human consumption. The vision of the UCSC iGEM team is to develop a novel process for converting these co-products into the high-value sweetener, Erythritol. It’s simple, sweet, and best of all, zero-calorie.” — UCSC iGEM team

iGEM is an international competition dedicated to education and the advancement of synthetic biology. This year’s UCSC iGEM team — the Sugar Slugs — consists of 17 undergraduates who have the “common goal of creating a better world through science and engineering.”

The team plans to engineer a bioreactor and bacteria to produce sweeteners from agricultural byproducts in this year’s iGEM competition. They’ve just launched their crowdfunding site with a goal of raising $25K to fund their project.

Specifically, the project plans to produce Erythritol from agricultural co-products. Erythritol is a food sweetener that has no calories, does not cause tooth decay, and does not change blood sugar. The team will create a custom made bioreactor to house microbes that feed off of agricultural co-products to produce Erythritol.


Learn more about iGEM team’s project in this video:


Who We Are

(Source: UCSC’s crowdfunding website)


iGEM team member works in the wetlab. (Source: iGEM's Facebook page)

iGEM team member works in the wetlab. (Source: iGEM’s Facebook page)

This project presents an unparalleled opportunity for talented students to gain hands-on experience, as well as learn to collaborate and communicate effectively in large team environments. The students lead, design, and built the project themselves, and in doing so, develop the critical analytical and independent problem-solving skills that are difficult to cultivate within the classroom. The project also calls upon a wide array of disciplines, such as microbial engineering, bioinformatics, bioreactor design, and finance, which grant students a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to complete ambitious projects in a real-world environment.

We are not just completing a project–we’re building a team. The dedicated students of the iGEM team are working 40+ hours each week, and are developing their project management and teamwork skills all the while. We believe that through the ambitious projects of today, we are building the leaders and scientific innovators of tomorrow.

To learn more and/or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to:





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