The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration. This is done by fostering an open, cooperative community, and friendly competition.
iGEM’s biggest program is the iGEM Competition. The iGEM Competition gives students the opportunity to push the boundaries of synthetic biology by tackling everyday issues facing the world. Made up of primarily university students, multidisciplinary teams work together to design, build, test, and measure a system of their own design using interchangeable biological parts and standard molecular biology techniques. Every year nearly 6,000 people dedicate their summer to iGEM and then come together in the fall to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree.
iGEMers are building a better world by solving problems with the help of synthetic biology. The iGEM Competition inspires thousands of students each year to work in teams to address unique challenges in their local communities. Browse through iGEM projects and learn how teams are solving real world problems.
We celebrate team achievements at the annual Giant Jamboree by showcasing projects from participating teams and awarding medals, prizes, and the grand prize, the BioBrick trophies.
iGEM sets the standard in synthetic biology with standardized parts. Learn more about the open source technology and browse through 20,000+ standardized genetic parts in the iGEM Registry.
The iGEM community is made up of international trailblazers from over 45 countries around the world. Learn more about the iGEM Teams.
In 2017 iGEM launched the After iGEM program. This program supports over 40,000 iGEMers -- students and instructors -- who has gone through the competition since its inception in 2004. This global network is leading the field, taking what they learned in the competition and expanding it to continue to build a better world. Learn more about iGEM's global After iGEM community where members take what they learned and experienced in the competition and expand it to continue have an impact on the world.
Click below to find more information about iGEM's programs.
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.
The After iGEM program supports the competition's 40,000+ participants in their future endeavors to continue leading and setting the standards for synthetic biology on an international level.
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 353 teams in 2019, reaching more than 40 countries.
The Competition was originally aimed at undergraduate college students, and has now grown to include graduate and high school students. By 2011, the growth of iGEM around the world sparked the first Regional Jamborees, with the highest scoring teams from each region proceeding on to the World Championships in Boston. By 2014, iGEM outgrew our home at MIT, and in an effort to reunite the whole iGEM community at a single event once more, the first "Giant Jamboree" was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
Through the years, projects grew in complexity and Competition "tracks" were introduced to give teams focus areas for their projects. Past projects have ranged from a rainbow of pigmented bacteria, to banana and wintergreen scented bacteria, to the development of arsenic biosensors to screen drinking water.
Learn more about previous competitions
Check out the interactive iGEM Timeline to learn more about iGEM's history.
iGEM became an international event early on. The map below shows all the iGEM teams from 2004 to 2018.
You can also visit 2020.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.
Welcome to iGEM
A message from Meagan Lizarazo, Vice President.
Visit the competition site 2020.igem.org to learn more.
Safety in iGEM
Human Practices at iGEM
A message from Megan Palmer, Director of Human Practices.
Visit the Human Practices Hub to learn more.
Experience the excitement of the iGEM Giant Jamboree.
iGEM Foundation financials, including IRS Forms 1023 and 990, are available upon request. Audited financial statements are available here.