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Jewish students help develop new method for early diagnosis of cancer

The team was honoured for developing a genetic circuit that can diagnose cancer easily, cheaply and, they claim, at a “curable stage”

    Sam Lovat 3rd from right, Abe Tolley 6th from right.
    Sam Lovat 3rd from right, Abe Tolley 6th from right.

    Two Jewish teenagers have won an award for coming up with a new way to diagnose cancer.

    Abe Tolley and Samuel Lovat were part of a team of seven science students from City of London School to be awarded a gold medal and four prizes at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition — described as the world cup of molecular biology.

    The team was honoured for developing a genetic circuit that can diagnose cancer easily, cheaply and, they claim, at a “curable stage”.

    Abe and Samuel, both 17, travelled with their team-mates and teachers to the iGEM finals in Boston to present their discovery.

    They were one of two secondary schools to win a prize at the synthetic biology competition, which was aimed at university students. The boys beat teams from Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.

    “We proved that our way for testing for cancer worked,” Abe said. “It isn’t anywhere near to clinical trials, but it might be something another team or group of researchers want to look into.

    “The great thing about all the entries is that they are there for people to build on and develop. It is very collaborative.”

    Samuel, who hopes to study bio-chemistry at university,  said he was motivated after his grandparents suffered from cancer.

    “I know what it is like to have someone go through cancer and the impact that has on family and friends.

    “By detecting tumours early, we know they are far easier to operate on and it would improve survival rates.”

    The Ner Yisrael Shul member said the team worked throughout the holidays, and spent “long nights” on the project.

    “It was nice to take a break from the syllabus and put some of what we were learning into practice,” he said. “We put in hours and hours of work on this so it feels great that we were recognised for our work.”

    The students, who are all studying for their A levels, were delighted at triumphing over teams from some of the world’s top universities. “It puts our achievement into perspective,” said Abe, who is a member of New North London Synagogue, in Finchley, and is hoping to take a degree in medicine when he leaves school.

    The sixth-formers were accompanied by Adam Zivanic, the City of London’s head of biology. He said: “With 295 teams and hundreds of experts from every continent, this is truly the molecular biology world cup.”

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