DISColi: Bio-photolithography - A new 3D manufacturing platform for modular product synthesis

The DISColi project aims to design and construct a novel bio-photolithographic system for the engineering of biofilms into functional 2D and 3D structures for use as a novel bio-manufacturing platform. In order to precisely sculpt the structure of the biofilms we designed a series of light-responsive promoters linked to proteins which can either disperse the biofilm or cement it. We aim to use this novel biofilm platform for a variety of manufacturing applications.

The main aims of our project can be separated into four areas:

o biofilm characterisation
o novel reporters for biofilm analysis
o light-controlled 3D sculpting of biofilms
o the controlled modular synthesis of a variety of products


Build your own nano-biofactory with modular product synthesis pathways - Use the DISColi system to form a biofilm then use different colours of light to select from a range cellular products from a single strain. Make an array of functionally diverse products from a common precursor, the products you want will only be in the biofilm cells allows for easy purification of the products in the amount you require.

Personalised nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals IN SPACE! - In remote locations which are difficult/costly to resupply, the DISColi system can be used. This means that a single culture can selectively produce a range of useful compounds,such as opioids and isoprenoids, tailored to exactly what is needed, from a common precursor.

Microfluidics - Grow a microfluidics platform using biofilm to form the channels. These channels can be dispersed, resetting the system and allowing the formation of new channels, or alter the channels during experiments to create dynamic environments.

Tissue Engineering - Use precise laser light to form tiny 3D structures out of biofilm that can be used as a scaffold for tissue culture.

Light Controlled Multicellularity - Use different colours of light to control dispersal of different species of microbes allowing the precise construction of a mixed community biofilm.

Clean Bioreactors - Biofilms are costly to clean from pipes and bioreactors. Using the DISColi system of light based dispersal of biofilms can stop the build up and even break down existing biofilms in pipes and bioreactors. Simply shining light will start production of surfactant proteins that have been shown to disperse biofilm.


Over the course of our project we have created 21 new physical biobricks, identified a novel chassis and also made a series of very interesting discoveries. Here are our personal highlights, including our favourite biobricks, our new chassis, and our public presence. Have a look!

Judging Criteria

In this section we explain why we deserve a gold medal in accordance with the iGEM judging criteria. If you have very little time, this may be exactly what you are looking for!

Novel biofilm-forming chassis - E.coli Nissle 1917

Our new transformable, non-pathogenic, biofilm-forming chassis!

LOV2 and iLOV Reporters

LOV2 and iLOV are our incredible new reporters. They are smaller, fluoresce brighter and recover from photobleaching faster than GFP, and also function in anaerobic conditions! Try tagging your favourite proteins.

c-di-GMP Phosphodiesterase

c-di-GMP Phosphodiesterase breaks down c-di-GMP, which is a secondary messenger which regulates many behaviours such as motility and biofilm formation. Over-expressing this phosphodiesterase should decrease the levels of c-di-GMP, increasing cellular motility and causing biofilm dispersal. c-di-GMP has many more functions making this biobrick useful in a wide range of applications.


The surfactant protein ranspumin-2 comes from foam nests TĂșngara Frog (Engystomops pustulosus). In DISColi we use it to disperse biofilm however its application are much broader.


Latherin is another surfactant protein although this one is isolated from horse sweat.

Multiple Cloning Site Biobrick

We were slowed down due to repeated rounds of restrictions and ligations to put multiple different coding regions with the same promoter, RBS and terminator combo. So we designed this handy multiple cloning site biobrick to speed up that process.


With many thanks to our generous sponsors, without whom this project would not have been possible.