The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to education and competition, the advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of an open community and collaboration.
iGEM runs three main programs: the iGEM Competition - an international team competition made up of predominantly undergraduate students interested in the field of synthetic biology; the Labs Program - a program for academic labs to use the same resources as the competition teams; and the Registry of Standard Biological Parts - a growing collection of genetic parts use for building biological devices and systems.
Click bellow to find more information about each program.
iGEM runs the premiere student competition in 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.
Academic labs can also be part of the iGEM community. They can subscribe to the Labs Program to conduct their own research using synthetic biology and have access to the same resources as the iGEM competition teams.
iGEM runs the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. The Registry has over 20,000 standard biological parts, with open access to all participating groups.
iGEM began in January 2003 as an independent study course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where students developed biological devices to make cells blink. This course became a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004 and continued to grow to 13 teams in 2005; it has now expanded to 310 teams in 2017, reaching more than 40 countries.
The competition was originally aimed at college students but it has grown to include overgraduate and high school students. The competition's projects also grew in complexity. Tracks where introduced to the competition to give teams focus areas for their projects and Regional Jamborees and World Championships where held in the past. Past projects have ranged from a rainbow of pigmented bacteria, to banana and wintergreen scented bacteria, to the development of an arsenic biosensor to screen drinking water.
The iGEM competition also promotes strong values in the teams. Students are expected to be honest with their research, cooperate with one another, practice good sportsmanship, be respectful of their peers, and celebrate everyone's efforts. The team that best embodies these values as determined by the judges will receive the Chairman's Award at the Giant Jamboree and the respect of the entire iGEM community.
Read more about the iGEM Values.
iGEM is a multifaceted program in which students can develop new skills. The different components of the competition not only make it a strong and thorough program but also allow students to be involved in outreach and education, development of new technologies, an international community, responsible and safe research practices, and project design.
Read more about the iGEM Facets.
iGEM became an international event early on. The map below shows all the iGEM teams from 2004 to 2017.
You can also visit 2018.igem.org to find out more about this year's teams.
"Forget the hoverboard. Real sign we’re living in the future is 21yr old undergrads sequencing whole genomes for #iGEM."
-Tom Ellis, Senior Lecturer in Synthetic Biology, Imperial College London
"@jrkelly recommends that to predict what #biotech will look like in the next 5 years, looking at #iGEM2014 posters will give lots of clues."
- Philip Boeing
"Really enjoyed the #iGEM poster sessions. Felt like the world’s smartest, most talented and enthusiastic people were all in one room tonight."
-Nicola Parton, Head of Synthetic Biology, The Sainsbury Laboratory
"iGEM is to some extent a reflection of the trends in Synthetic biology (2 years ago, a lot of TALENs, last year a lot of CRISPR, this year a lot about WHO’s call for novel antibiotics solutions…"
-Michel Cannieux, Director of Product Commercialization, Synthetic Biology, IDT
Read What Others Say
- The New Yorker: Synthetic Life After G.M.O.s, December 2014
- Technology Review: Rewiring Cells: How a handful of MIT electrical engineers pioneered synthetic biology, May/June 2011
- BioTechniques: iGEM Competitors Gear Up for 2010 Challenge, 19 October 2010
- NYT Magazine: Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering, 10 February 2010
Want to support iGEM?
You can send us an email: hq at igem dot org or find other ways to reach us in our contact page.
iGEM Foundation financials, including IRS Forms 1023 and 990, are available upon request. Audited financial statements are available here.