What is iGEM?
The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation was formed back in 2003 when students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed biological devices as an independent study course. Since then, it became an organization that holds programs to advance synthetic biology and develop open community and collaboration. Three main programs are the iGem Competition, Labs Program, and Registry of Standard Biological Parts.
The iGEM Competition
The competition aims to involve students in the field of synthetic biology, and has divisions for high school, undergraduate, and overgraduate. Participants are provided a kit that includes BioBricks, which are standard genetic parts, which they can use to build genetically engineered system. Examples of such systems built in previous years include modified yeasts to caffeinate beer, plants to glow in the dark, and bacteria to produce cellulose. The goal of the competition is to develop the best solution to a real world problem, using synthetic biology. Teams spend the summer designing and building their model, in order to compete at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, for a chance to win the Grand Prize. This year, there’s 300+ teams from 40+ countries are competing in Boston from October 24 – 28, including our home team from University of Edinburgh.
University of Edinburgh has been participating in iGEM since 2006. This year, both the Undergrad and Overgrad teams are going to Boston to compete. The Edinburgh Undergrad iGEM team MaxED OOT aims to provide a safe and minimalistic chassis for future synthetic biology. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Overgrad iGEM team Valeris.ED is tackling the plastic waste problem by introducing bioplastic production of poly-(3-hydroxybutyrate-3-hydroxyvalerate) or PHBV, into E.coli, using Whiskey by-product pot ale. Staying on brand, the Edinburgh OG team is partnering with a local distillery, for their eco friendly E-coli-produced plastic.
Check out their team Wiki http://2018.igem.org/Team:Edinburgh_UG and http://2018.igem.org/Team:Edinburgh_OG to find out more about how they defined the problem, designed their project, and built a living engineered system.
Stay tuned for more updates and highlights of 2018’s Giant Jamboree!