The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. This project design and competition format is an exceptionally motivating and effective teaching method.
iGEM began in January of 2003 with a month-long course during MIT's Independent Activities Period (IAP). The students designed biological systems to make cells blink. This design course grew to a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004, 13 teams in 2005 - the first year that the competition grew internationally, 32 teams in 2006, 54 teams in 2007, 84 teams in 2008, 112 teams in 2009, 130 teams in 2010, and 165 teams in 2011. Projects ranged from a rainbow of pigmented bacteria, to banana and wintergreen smelling bacteria, an arsenic biosensor, Bactoblood, buoyant bacteria, and more.
In 2012, iGEM spun out of MIT and became an independent nonprofit organization located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. The iGEM Foundation fosters scientific research and education through organizing and operating the iGEM Competition, the premier student synthetic biology competition. It also fosters scientific research and education by establishing and operating the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, a community collection of biological components. The organization promotes the advancement of science and education by developing an open community of students and practitioners in schools, laboratories, research institutes, and industry. The iGEM community has a long history of involving students and the public in the development of the new field of synthetic biology.
For the iGEM 2012 competition we have 190 teams and over 3000 participants from 34 countries world-wide taking part in the competition. They will specify, design, build, and test simple biological systems made from standard, interchangeable biological parts. The accomplishments of these student teams during one summer are often impressive and will lead to important advances in medicine, energy, and the environment.
In the fall, teams will come together to present their summer projects and to compete for awards and prizes. Teams will first compete in Regional Jamborees in their region (Europe, Asia, Latin America, Americas-East, Americas-West) taking place in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Bogota, Colombia on October 5-7, 2012, and in Pittsburgh and Palo Alto on October 12-14, 2012. A percentage of teams advance to the World Championship Jamboree held on November 2-5, 2012 in Cambridge, MA, USA.
In 2011, iGEM introduced a High School Division that will focus on finding ways for high school student teams to enjoy iGEM in ways that fit the schedules, resources, and structures available to high school teams. The iGEM 2012 High School Division Jamboree was held in June 2012 in Greenfield, Indiana. Attendees included the teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Turkey and virtual participants from the United States and China. The High School Division will continue with a 2013 competition. See www.igem.org/HS for more details about the iGEM High School Division.
In 2012, iGEM launched an Entrepreneurship Division. Students compete over the summer to work on the topic of startup companies in Synthetic Biology. Teams focus their work on areas such as Business Plans, Economic and Business Models, Industry Development, Business and Regulation and work with team members that range from undergraduate students in science and engineering to law students, to social scientists. For 2012 there are 15 teams registered to participate and the Jamboree will be held on November 5, 2012 in Cambridge, MA, USA.
For more information, see www.igem.org/About.
- iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine competition
- Over the course of a summer, student teams design and build simple biological systems made from standard interchangeable DNA parts
- iGEM also runs the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, the community collection of the standard interchangeable DNA parts
- The iGEM competition began in 2003 as a January course at MIT
- iGEM Through the Years:
- 2004: 5 teams
- 2005: 13 teams
- 2006: 32 teams
- 2007: 54 teams
- 2008: 84 teams
- 2009: 112 teams
- 2010: 130 teams
- 2011: 165 teams
- 2012: 245 teams
- 2004: First summer competition
- 2005: First year of international teams
- 2010: 130 teams and over 1300 participants attend the iGEM Jamboree on MIT campus. Kresge Auditorium only holds 1244 people!
- 2011: First year of tiered iGEM competition with Regional Jamborees in Amsterdam, Indianapolis, and Hong Kong followed by the World Championship Jamboree
- 2011: iGEM launches High School Division competition with 5 teams in the Indiana area of the US
- 2012: iGEM spins out of MIT and forms the independent nonprofit organization with lab and office space in Cambridge, MA, USA
- 2012: High School Division has 40 teams
- 2012: 5 iGEM Regions with Regional Jamborees in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Bogota (Colombia), Pittsburgh, and Stanford for 190 teams, followed by the World Championship Jamboree
- 2012: iGEM launches the Entrepreneurship Division with 15 teams