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iGEM

iGEM

A non-profit organization promoting responsible innovation in the field of synthetic biology through competition, collaboration, and community.

The iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) Foundation is a non-profit organization promoting the development of synthetic biology through competition, collaboration, and community. The iGEM Foundation promotes technological development within the field of synthetic biology with three main programs: the iGEM Competition, Labs Program, and Registry of Standard Biological Parts. It was founded in 2003 by Randy Rettberg and is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.

iGEM Competition

Each year hundreds of teams build software, hardware, and wetware tools within certain research tracks. Teams comprise students at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate (called "overgrad" by the organizers) levels, although community labs are also eligible to field teams. Each team must complete tasks specific to their selected tracks to be eligible for a medal of either bronze, silver, or gold. There is no limit to how many medals can be awarded by judges -- it is decided on the individual accomplishments of each team (i.e: all teams can win a gold medal).

However, teams also compete for awards on top of medals. These include Track Awards (the top team in each track), Special Prizes (such as Best Wiki or Best Education & Public Engagement), and the Grand Prize (the top overall teams at each level). Judges decide the top three teams at the undergraduate level, the top two teams at the overgraduate level, and the top team at the high school level. The iGEM Competition begins each February with team formation and fundraising efforts, culminating at the iGEM Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts in late October or early November.

Tracks

Teams will compete in the following tracks in the 2018 iGEM Giant Jamboree:

  • Diagnostics
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Food & Nutrition
  • Foundational Advance
  • High School
  • Information Processing
  • Manufacturing
  • New Application
  • Therapeutics
  • Open (special track)
  • Software (special track)

The Open Track includes all other tracks from previous years, except for Software, including Hardware, Measurement, and Art & Design, as well as other projects in Human Practices.

iGEM competition winners

Year
Award/Track
Undergrad
Overgrad
Highschool

2014

Best Foundational Advance Project

Heidelberg

Gothenburg

N/A

2014

Chairman's Award

Sumbawagen

Sumbawagen

N/A

2014

2nd Runner-up

NCTU Formosa

TU Darmstadt

N/A

2014

Best Energy Project

TU Darmstadt

TU Darmstadt

N/A

2014

Best Measurement Project

Aachen

Aachen

N/A

2014

Best Software Project

SYSU-Software

SYSU-Software

N/A

2014

Best Food & Nutrition Project

Wageningen UR

Wageningen UR

N/A

2014

Best Information Processing Project

Tokyo Tech

Tokyo Tech

N/A

2014

Best Manufacturing Project

Imperial

Imperial

N/A

2014

Best Art & Design Project

ArtCenter MDP

ArtCenter MDP

N/A

2014

Best Community Labs Project

SF Bay Area DIYbio

SF Bay Area DIYbio

N/A

2014

Best Microfluidics Project

TU Delft-Leiden

TU Delft-Leiden

N/A

2014

Best Entreprenuership Project

ITESM-Guadalajara

ITESM-Guadalajara

N/A

2014

Best Policy & Practices Project

GES NCSU Raleigh NC

GES NCSU Raleigh NC

N/A

2014

Best Environment Project

NCTU Formosa

Minnesota

N/A

2014

1st Runner up

Imperial

Wageningen

N/A

2014

Best health & Medicine Project

Dundee

Aberdeen Scotland

N/A

2014

Best New Application Project

TU Eindhoven

Paris Bettencourt

N/A

2014

Best Policy & Practices Advance

Dundee

UC Davis

N/A

2014

Best Measurement Approach

Toulouse

Aberdeen Scotland

N/A

2014

Best Model

Waterloo

ETH Zurich

N/A

2014

Best New Basic Part

NCTU Formosa

TU Darmstadt

N/A

2014

Best New Composite Part

SYSU-China

INSA-Lyon

N/A

2014

Best Wiki

Aalto-Helsinki

LMU-Munich, SDU-Denmark

N/A

2014

Best Poster

Carnegie Mellon

Wageningen UR

N/A

SHOW ALL (122)

Judging

Individuals from industry and academia volunteer to judge the iGEM Competition each year. They score teams on various metrics including the quality of the Wiki, final presentation, and poster, as well as the technical accomplishments of the project itself. There are also track-specific scoring rubrics.

History

The iGEM Competition has grown from five teams in 2004 to 310 in 2017.The iGEM Foundation states the competition has over 30,000 alumni, but this number is likely an overestimate that includes double counting of individuals who have participated in multiple years.

Year
Team Count
Individual Participants

2004

5

31

2005

13

125

2006

32

723

2007

54

777

2008

88

1,248

2009

113

1,840

2010

128

2,327

2011

165

2,586

2012

190

3,696

2013

215

4,027

2014

245

4,515

2015

280

5,018

2016

300

4,432

2017

310

5,400

2018

369 (estimated registration)

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Wiki Freeze

The Wiki Freeze occurs each year, marked by the deadline for making edits to a team's wiki page for their project. It has become a jokingly terrifying hallmark of the iGEM Competition.

Startups with Roots to iGEM

Over two dozen companies in the field of synthetic biology were started by iGEM alumni, including many that spawned from projects developed as part of the iGEM Competition.

Year of Competition
Team(s)
Affiliated Company

2004, 2006

MIT

2006

Brown

2006

Edinburgh

2007, 2012

Paris 2007, Evry 2012

2007, 2012

Paris 2007, Evry 2012

PILI

2008

Washington

Asimov

2009

Imperial College London

BioBright

2009

DTU Denmark

Labster

2009 to 2015

Peking 2009, USTC 2009, Tsinghua 2010, Peking 2010, OUC China 2012, BNU-China 2014, Peking 2015

Bluepha

2010

Liliane Bettencourt

2010

Alberta

Genomikon (merged with Synbiota)

2010 to 2011

Washington 2010, Washington 2011

Experiment.com (formerly Microryza)

2011

Washington

2011

Imperial College London

LabGenius

2012

Queens Canada

2012

Alberta (Entrepreneurship)

2012

Erasmus University, Rotterdam

Amplino

2012

MIT (Entrepreneurship)

Benchling

2012

University College London (Entrepreneurship)

2012 to 2013

Calgary 2012, Calgary (Entrepreneurship) 2013

FredSense

2013

Penn

BioBots

2013

University College London (Entrepreneurship)

Bento Lab (formerly Darwin Toolbox)

2013

UC Davis (Entrepreneurship)

2014

Genspace

Opentrons

2014

Imperial College London

CustoMem

SHOW ALL (29)

Labs Program

Academic labs can subscribe to the iGEM Foundation's Labs Program, which was started in 2004. Labs participating in the program have access to the Standard Registry of Biological Parts, receive all kits distributed to teams competing in the iGEM Competition, can have their lab website hosted on the iGEM wiki, and are eligible for discounts to attend the iGEM Giant Jamboree. Labs are asked to operate with the same "Get & Give" philosophy as teams participating in the iGEM Competition and to provide documentation for and samples of parts they make. The annual subscription fee for the Labs Program is $500. Participating labs are limited to three separate requests for parts each year and 25 parts per request, or 75 parts per year.

Registry of Standard Biological Parts

Criticism

As the registry has grown over the years, some individuals in the field have questioned the level of quality. Not all parts in the registry have robust supporting documentation or work as intended. Some of the parts may even infringe on intellectual property rights.

Financials

In 2016 the iGEM Foundation reported $3.502 million in revenue, including $3.123 million, or 89%, from all iGEM program fees. The organization recorded $3.306 million in expenses, including $2.747 million, or 83%, from the iGEM Competition. The remaining $0.559 million in expenses comprised administrative fees.

Partnerships

Ginkgo Bioworks

On June 14, 2018 iGEM announced that it will be partnering with Ginkgo Bioworks. Ginkgo Bioworks committed to being the lead partner for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition. Ginkgo Bioworks has previous history participating in iGEM programs, and is eager to give back to the iGEM community. The CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, Jason Kelly, said ""As early graduates ourselves, we're humbled to now be in a position where we can give back in such a meaningful way to a partner that shares our values on technology, responsibility, and local action."

Timeline

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People

Name
Role
Related Golden topics

King Chow

Board Member

Maria Bartolini

Director of Marketing and Communications

Meagan Lizarazo

Vice President

Pamela Silver

Board Member

Piers Millet

Vice President of Safety and Security

Randy Rettberg

Founder, Director, Board Member

Randy Rettberg

Board Member

Richard Johnson

Board Member

Thomas Knight

Board Member

Traci Haddock-Angelli

Director of the Competition

Vinoo Selvarajah

Director of the Registry

Further reading

Author
Title
Link
Type

Carlson, R.H., Jerala, R., Vilanova, C., Materi, W., Majerle, A., Gersbach, C.A., Reis, Y., Peretó, J., Lim, W.A., Gordon, S.R., Kwok, R., Goodman, C., Endy, D., Helman, N.C., Gaj, T., Mancek-Keber, M., Guan, Z., Mori, J., Yan, S., Sander, C., Pristovsek, P., Porcar, M., Cristina Vilanova, Campos, L., Barbas, C.F.

iGEM 2.0 a€”re foundations for engineering biology

Ginkgo Bioworks

Ginkgo Bioworks Marks 10-Year Anniversary with iGEM Partnership

News article

PLOS Collections

PLOS iGEM 2017 Collection – report | PLOS Collections

Web article

Documentaries, videos and podcasts

Title
Date
Link

Dr. Kim De Mora — iGEM: How to Get Started in Synthetic Biology

October 9, 2015

What is iGEM: An Introduction to iGEM

July 10, 2013

Companies

Company
CEO
Location
Products/Services

References