Golden Recursion Inc. logoGolden Recursion Inc. logo
Advanced Search
iGEM

iGEM

The iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) Foundation is 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).

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 and culminates at the iGEM Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts in late October or early November.

Tracks

Teams compete in the following iGEM Giant Jamboree tracks:

  • 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, and other projects in Human Practices.

iGEM competition winners

Year
Award/Track
Undergrad
Overgrad
Highschool

2014

Chairman's Award

Sumbawagen

Sumbawagen

N/A

2014

Grand Prize Winner

Heidelberg

UC Davis

N/A

2014

1st Runner up

Imperial

Wageningen

N/A

2014

2nd Runner-up

NCTU Formosa

TU Darmstadt

N/A

2014

Best Energy Project

TU Darmstadt

TU Darmstadt

N/A

...
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, poster, and 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.

Participants and teams per year

Year
Team Count
Individual Participants

2004

5

31

2005

13

125

2006

32

723

2007

54

777

2008

88

1,248

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.

Start-ups with roots in 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.

Start-ups launched by iGEM alumni

Year of Competition
Team(s)
Affiliated Company

2004, 2006

MIT

2006

Edinburgh

2006

Brown

2007, 2012

Paris 2007, Evry 2012

2007, 2012

Paris 2007, Evry 2012

...
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 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 twenty-five parts per request, or seventy-five 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 percent, from all iGEM program fees. The organization recorded $3.306 million in expenses, including $2.747 million, or 83 percent, 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 would be partnering with Ginkgo Bioworks. Ginkgo Bioworks committed to being the lead partner for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition. Ginkgo Bioworks had a history of participating in iGEM programs and desired to give back to the iGEM community. The CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, Jason Kelly, stated

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

Patents

Further Resources

Title
Author
Link
Type
Date

Ginkgo Bioworks Marks 10-Year Anniversary with iGEM Partnership

Ginkgo Bioworks

News article

iGEM 2.0 a€”re foundations for engineering biology

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.

PLOS iGEM 2017 Collection – report | PLOS Collections

PLOS Collections

Web article

What is iGEM: An Introduction to iGEM

July 10, 2013

News

Title
Author
Date
Publisher
Description
November 16, 2020
BioSpace
Twist Bioscience Continues Support for Next Generation of Synthetic Biologists Through Work with iGEM Competition - read this article along with other careers information, tips and advice on BioSpace

References

Golden logo
By using this site, you agree to our Terms & Conditions.