Press Kit


Synthetic Biology

based on standard parts
iGEM 2015
The iGEM 2015 competition season is over! Visit for more information.

iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, is the largest synthetic biology community and the premiere synthetic biology competition for both university and high school level students. iGEM inspires learning and innovation in synthetic biology through education, competition and by maintaining an open library of standard biological parts, the Registry of Standard Biological Parts.

We are proud to say that over 18,000 of the brightest young scientists and engineers have participated in iGEM as students, instructors, or advisors.
iGEM began in January 2003 with a month-long course during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) where students designed biological systems to make cells blink. This university design course then grew to a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004. 10 years later, we’ve grown to 245 teams from over 32 countries.
The High School Division was introduced in 2011, allowing high school student teams to experience iGEM in ways that fit the schedules, resources, and structures available to high school teams.

In 2012, iGEM spun out of MIT and in September 2013 iGEM Foundation became an independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
iGEM teams participated in a tiered system from 2011 – 2013, with teams competing at the regional level in United States, Europe, and Asia and the top teams advancing to the World Championship in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2014, iGEM held the first Giant Jamboree, eliminating the regional competitions and inviting all participants to attend and compete at this one grand event. With over 2300 participants in attendance, the 2014 Giant Jamboree was the largest gathering of synthetic biologists to-date.

In 2015, iGEM combined the Collegiate and High School Divisions. With the introduction of a High School Track, both collegiate and high school teams are invited to the Giant Jamboree event. A total of 7 new tracks were introduced in 2015.

The competition

Combining molecular biology techniques with engineering concepts, students work in interdisciplinary team to create novel biological systems. At the beginning of the competition season, each registered team is given a kit of 1000+ standard interchangeable parts called BioBricks from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools, teams use these parts and new parts of their own design to build, test, and characterize genetically engineered systems and operate them in living cells in an effort to address real-world issues. Along with submitting their newly created BioBricks to the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, teams are required to actively consider the safety implications of their work and document their projects on team wiki pages. At the end of the competition season, teams converge at the Jamboree event to showcase their research. Teams present their work through posters and oral presentations, and compete for prizes and awards, such as the coveted BioBrick trophy.


The iGEM Registry of Standard Biological Parts is the world’s largest collection of open source DNA parts called BioBricks®. These parts all meet an established standard to ensure compatibility between parts, allowing them to be assembled together to build novel genetically engineered systems. The Registry contains the world’s largest collection of BioBricks, with over 20,000 specified genetic parts.

The Registry of Standard Biological Parts is built on a ‘Get, Give & Share’ philosophy. iGEM competition participants and participating academic labs can request parts from the Registry for use. They then give back data and new parts to the repository to share with the community.

iGEM through the years


  • iGEM merged the Collegiate and High School division, inviting both collegiate and high school teams to compete at the Giant Jamboree
  • 2014

  • iGEM eliminates the regional competition for the Collegiate devision and invites all participants to the Giant Jamboree - the largest gathering of synthetic biologists to date with more than 2300 in attendance!
  • 2013

  • iGEM spins out of MIT and forms the independent nonprofit organization with lab and office space in Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2012

  • iGEM launches the Entrepreneurship Division
  • 2011

  • iGEM launches the High School Division
  • First year of tiered iGEM competition with Regional Jamborees in Amsterdam, Indianapolis, and Hong Kong followed by the World Championship Jamboree
  • 2010

  • 130 teams and over 1300 participants attend the iGEM Jamboree on MIT campus. Kresge Auditorium only holds 1244 people!
  • 2005

  • International teams participate in iGEM
  • 2004

  • First summer competition
  • 2003

  • First iGEM competition began as a January course at MIT



Please attribute iGEM Foundation and Justin Knight

Photos of iGEM events are available on iGEM's Flickr account. All our photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, and may be downloaded and reproduced accordingly. Specific attribution instructions are given in the description of each photo.

If Flickr is not available in your country, please contact iGEM HQ to inquire about photos.

Other Resources


  • iGEM should be written with the first letter lowercase and the next three letters uppercase: "iGEM", not "iGem" / "IGEM" / "igem".
  • The iGEM Foundation is the non-profit corporation that operates the iGEM Competition. Either entity may be briefly referred to as "iGEM" (not "the iGEM").
  • "Machine" is singular, not plural, in "International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation/Competition".


The iGEM logo is available in the following formats:

iGEM Foundation

Dedicated to education and competition, advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of open community and collaboration.

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