The Arsenic Biosensor Collaboration arose from three original projects. The two projects that form the technological foundation were student-driven research for the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition. The Edinburgh 2006 iGEM team supervised by Dr Chris French, designed and built an arsenic biosensor circuit in the bacteria E. coli. The readout was based on a pH change that required an indicator dye and spectrophotometer readout. The Cambridge 2009 iGEM team supervised by Drs Jim Haseloff, Gos Micklem and Jim Ajioka, developed a series of visual pigments and signal control tuners for biosensor use. As two of the iGEM team members including Mr James King came from the Royal College of Art, the team devised the E. chromi concept that includes an arsenic biosensor application. The third project culminated in Dr David Grimshaw’s 2009 arsenic water contamination meeting in Kathmandu. Although synthetic biology was not amongst the technologies discussed at this meeting, Dr Grimshaw spoke to the Cambridge 2009 iGEM team and inspired the students with the need for a robust field test kit for arsenic ground water contamination.
The Wellcome Trust funds the core project which is reported in their News and features section of their website. The co-investigators on the project are Drs French, Grimshaw and Haseloff with Dr Ajioka as principal investigator. Mr James King and Dr David Nugent are consultants. Drs Orr Yarkoni and David Radford drive the research and development (see the Team).