HOME | TUDelft - iGEM 2022

The Problem
Drink Spiking in Western Europe

In recent years, the phenomenon of drink spiking has been on the rise in Western Europe, mostly the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and The Netherlands [1][2].

The main drug utilized for this purpose is gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, commonly known as GHB. GHB has a fast onset of action and can cause acute health issues like dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, and when consumed in excessive doses or mixed with alcohol, it can lead to death [5].

In addition, due to the rapid breakdown of GHB molecules, it is unlikely to identify this drug in the body after 6 hours from consumption [6]. As it usually takes multiple hours before victims enter the hospital, these cannot confirm most cases of drugging, leading to a lack of data, and insufficient proof to file a report, which prevents the victims from getting justice.

So far, tests have been slow, expensive, and inconvenient, as in most cases they can only be performed by trained hospital personnel, or require active testing of the drink carried out by the subject.

Our Solution
a biosensor for GHB

Project SPYKE aims at solving this problem, by developing a GHB biosensor. Our device is the combination of biological and electrical components. When the biosensor enters in contact with GHB it will emit an orange light that is going to alert the user, and prevent them from consuming the spiked drink.
Our sensor relies on the transcription factor BlcR, a protein that binds a specific sequence of DNA tethered to an electrode. When GHB is poured into the drink, it binds the transcription factor, which dissociates from the DNA causing a change in the electrical signal, which triggers the orange light to turn on.

system animation

Human Practices

HP gif

We highly regard creating a product that makes the largest possible positive impact on the world. To ensure we achieve this while taking into account the values of every stakeholder, we first started with a value-sensitive design approach. After talking to relevant stakeholders, such as hospitals, club owners, drug institutions, and victims, we have incorporated their insights into our project, in order to come up with the best possible design. Read more here.


Concerning the entrepreneurial aspect of our project, we conducted several analysis regarding the product. This way we could also define its market value. Furthermore, as our project contains very innovative elements, after consulting with different patenting agencies, we decided to file a patent for our product. More on the patenting process and the market analysis here.

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Outreach and Education

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As SynBio is a field often neglected in high schools due to lack of time and an already very rich curriculum, we guided two high school students in their profielwerkstuk (high school thesis) by welcoming them to our laboratory for a day and guiding them in their research. We also developed a SynBio game and got featured in the local press. Read more here.

meet the team


  1. Drinkaware.co.uk. 2022. Drink Spiking – Know the facts and protect your customers. [online] Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/news/drink-spiking-know-the-facts-and-protect-your-customers
  2. O’Rourke, R., 2022. 'It happened so quickly': Student describes drink spiking horror. [online] Irish Examiner. Available at: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40844033.html
  3. Brown, E., 2021. Drink Spiking Branded An ‘Epidemic’ As Shocking Statistics Reveal How Many Young Women Are Targeted. [online] UNILAD. Available at: https://www.unilad.com/news/drink-spiking-branded-an-epidemic-as-shocking-statistics-reveal-how-many-young-women-are-targeted/
  4. www.drugsinfoteam.nl. (n.d.). GHB - Risico’s | drugsinfoteam.nl. [online] Available at: https://www.drugsinfoteam.nl/drugsinfo/ghb/ghb-risico
  5. Oxford Treatment Center. (n.d.). How Long Does GHB Stay in Your System? [online] Available at: https://oxfordtreatment.com/substance-abuse/ghb/in-system/