Israeli team wins gold for producing bee-free honey

Israeli researchers genetically engineered bacteria to produce honey.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

A team of Technion researchers was awarded a gold medal at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) in Boston for producing bee-free honey.

The team, including 12 members from six Technion faculties, developed a sustainable “BeeFree” honey using engineered bacteria, which processes a nectar-like solution using secreted enzymes that mimic the honey stomach environment.

The development’s significance is magnified by the unexplained decline of bee populations in many parts of the world.

This is the sixth medal the Technion has won since joining the competition in 2012.

iGEM Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and competition, the advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of an open community and collaboration. The foundation was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Launched in 2004, its competition focuses on synthetic biology. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts and work over the summer to build and test biological systems in living cells, ranging from bacteria to mammalian cells.

Teams from some 300 universities from around the world participated in this year’s competition.

One of the conditions for participating in the international competition is donating to the community. To meet this requirement, the members of the group held a Hackathon on environmental and sustainability issues for 44 outstanding Haifa-based students in the 10th-12th grades.

The first prize was awarded to “The Green Choice Group,” which developed a solution to reduce the amount of food thrown away around the world through an application that allows supermarkets to offer low prices on products that are about to expire.

The Technion Group ranked one of the top five teams in the iGEM Community Engagement category for this activity.