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iGEM 2023 in Paris, France

In early November 2023, Team Thailand-RIS attended iGEM, an annual worldwide synthetic biology competition. Here, team captain Ivy Thitilapa Sae-Heng (Co24) and fellow team member Gunn Thanakorn Vajirakachorn (Co25) talk about their project, their experience in Paris, and their appreciation for the support they received from the RIS community.

iGEM 2023 in Paris

This year marked the 20th anniversary of iGEM, the premier global conference for synthetic biology. Team Thailand-RIS’ project, Powering Up Plant Defenses, aimed to increase the speed of stress response in plants. Agriculture plays a huge part in Thailand’s economy, so the project was definitely important to the team members.

“Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are heavily damaging to a plant, and over time, this can lead to a change in color, smell, and its other features,” explained team captain Ivy Thitilapa Sae-Heng (Co24). “ROS are produced when plants sense stress, such as when there is a shortage of water or a change in temperature. They occur naturally in many organelles but are most concentrated in the mitochondria.

“As the Glutamate cysteine ligase (GCL) protein is localized in the chloroplast, the plant’s ability to respond to stress is not efficient enough, causing damage. By being able to produce GCL in the mitochondria, Team Thailand-RIS is facilitating the ability of plants to deal with stress far more quickly.” (for more on Powering Up Plant Defenses, visit the Team Thailand-RIS wiki page.)

With Powering Up Plant Defenses, Team Thailand-RIS definitely made an impression at iGEM. They were awarded a Silver Medal and nominated for best presentation (making the top ten out of 121 high school teams). The judges and graduate students at the Grand Jamboree know that working with plants is extremely challenging. Given the limited lab time from July to September available to the team, they were commended on their ambition, especially as high school teams tend to choose the more traditional path of modification through yeast or bacteria. The team was also commended on their understanding of the discipline, citing that they gained constructive feedback to build on for future endeavors.

Team captain Ivy

“This was my second year of iGEM, and like last year, it was a thrilling and enjoyable experience,” shared Ivy. “Like last year, “I got to dive deeper into my interests in Biology while working on the project. As the team captain, I also got to refine and strengthen my leadership skills. During the Grand Jamboree in Paris, I got to connect with other teams from around the world and learn the different applications of synthetic biology and how they are applied to solve various global problems.

“We feel immensely fortunate that we were able to increase awareness about iGEM and showcase the importance of synthetic biology in Thailand,” added fellow team member Gunn Thanakorn Vajirakachorn (Co25). “At iGEM, our travel team members got inspired by various projects from different synthetic biology fields—food, environment, diagnostics, and even AI. We forged new connections with teams around the globe and received encouragement on our objective.”

"Eventually, we’ll be able to take an atom, place it wherever we want, and the results will work every time. Biology already does this really well."

During their trip to Paris, Team Thailand-RIS also had the honor of meeting with the Charge d’affaires of the Thai Embassy in France. In addition, they were also able to engage with art museums (Musee D’Orsay), historical sights (La Conciergerie, Montmartre), and religious monuments (such as Sainte-Chapelle, which dates back to the 14th century, and various other educational attractions, making the trip even more special.

Team Thailand-RIS and advisors Ms. Nicole Sabet & Mr. Olivier Fernandez with the Charge d’affaires of the Thai Embassy in France
Team Thailand-RIS visits Sainte-Chapelle

Acknowledgments from the team

A big thank you and congratulations to the 12 traveling members of Thailand-RIS for demonstrating Phoenix pride all the way in Paris:

iGEM team in Paris 2023 1

    • Ivy Thitilapa Sae-Heng (Co24)
      (Team Captain)
    • Miu Unyakorn Patrathiranond (Co25)
    • Gunn Thanakorn Vajirakachorn (Co25)
    • Ananya Anuj Dharna (Co25)
    • Maera Singh (Co25)
    • Anika Kapur (Co25)
    • Jacky Setthachai Lertwatsana (Co25)
    • Vin Pungprasert (Co25)
    • Sara Supissara Sirichantaropas (Co25)
    • Pleum Pannavit Dangvijit (Co25)
    • Ray Kritpaul Prasattongosoth (Co25)
    • Achi Kitrawipong Pongwilai (Co25)

Also, a #Head #Hands #Heart nod to all the work done leading up to the competition that included our home team members:


      • Kaka Dhirath Thanglerdsumpan (Co25)
      • Axe Sirakrit Ratanachai (Co25)
      • Tyna MacPherson Sethaputra (Co26)
      • Thamognya Kodi (Co25)
      • Prin Aornvara Uchupalanun (Co26)
      • Aiko Jidapa Jittirat (Co26)
      • Fortune Vattikorn Kunkongkaphan (Co24)
      • View Wariya Turongkinanon (Co25)
      • Sun Suphanat Thanombooncharoen (Co25)
      • Tun Itthipat Saipornchai (Co25)
      • Tem Thanatorn Onraksa (Co25)
      • Pun Patcharipa Jeerapat (Co24)

    We would like to thank Ms. Nicole Sabet and Mr. Olivier Fernandez for their time in advising us, as well as Ms. Mina Park, Ms. Jennifer Voigt, Ms. Katie Seneesiririkul, Mr. Kom Penpoo, and Mr. Tyson Churchill for assisting us with our Human Practices Educational Workshops.


    We are grateful to our sponsors—Bangchak Corporation Public Company Limited for providing us with a grant that supported iGEM registration and lab practice as well as travel expenses; Mahachok Fruits for funding one of our Chanthaburi outreach trips; and Chulalongkorn University for providing lab facilities and advisors.

    We would have never been able to achieve what we have done without all of you.