Press Kit


iGEM, a brief history

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 invited 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. What to expect in 2015 - we will be combining the Collegiate and High School Divisions, and introducing a High School Track in the Giant Jamboree event. Also more new tracks – Art & Design, Hardware, etc.

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 Registry:

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.

For more information, see

iGEM Logo
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Note that the iGEM logo is copyrighted by iGEM and provided here for iGEM participants to help them promote iGEM and their iGEM team.
iGEM In a Nutshell
  • 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
Please direct all press questions to:
    Randy Rettberg,
  • President
  • randy AT igem DOT org
  • +1.617.500.3106
    Meagan Lizarazo,
  • Vice President
  • meagan AT igem DOT org
  • +1.617.500.3106

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