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iGEM opens registration to DIYbio and more

February 9, 2009


UPDATE 10 April 2009: iGEM Closes Doors to Amateurs

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is about 5 years old now and bigger than ever.

iGEM 2008 at the Jamboree

iGEM 2008 at the Jamboree

More than 1000 students are expected to participate in 2009 by applying the principles of synthetic biology and using a kit of standard biological parts to try and design novel biological systems.  The Registry of Standard Biological Parts (hosted by MIT) maintains a collection of the components and full systems each team creates for the competition.  After the summer, all the teams gather at the iGEM Jamboree to present their work for awards and prizes.

All in all, it’s an amazing competition generating tons of new innovation in synthetic biology.  The fixed deadline and possibility of winning prizes motivates fast, concrete results and helps teams get funding (there is a psychological shift: donors are funding a team with the prospect to win instead of basic research).

So, who wants to start an iGEM team?  Because iGEM is opening its doors to the wider community of biohackers for the first time this year with a non-institutional teams division.  I spoke with Randy Rettberg on Friday about the specifics:

  • Team registration will be $500, due March 31.
  • There will be an additional per-person Jamboree fee later
  • All teams will have access to iGEM Partner deals ($0.20/bp synthesis from GeneArt; MatLab + simbiology toolkit)
  • All teams can request parts from the Registry.  Requests will have to be approved by a Safety Committee.
  • Each team will get to present their work with a 5-minute talk and a poster at the Jamboree
  • The Jamboree will be Oct 31 – Nov 2.

For more information about iGEM, visit:

This is the first post in a series about iGEM, the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, and Synthetic Biology.


Post a comment
  1. February 10, 2009

    Congratulations on getting access to iGEM for private teams. But how will teams deal with access to equipment: will universities or research institutes act as hosts for private-team labs?

    • mac #
      February 17, 2009

      Chris, that’s a problem each independent team will have to solve this year if they are planning on doing wetwork. IGEM HeadQuarters is expecting a handful of informatics-based non-institutional teams, and they obviously will not need access to anything more than a desktop computer.

      We are all pioneering the answer to the wetlab question this year. I personally think the most promising approach will be liaisons with local high schools or community colleges, or possibly hackerspaces if a group is lucky enough to live near one.

  2. Norman #
    April 4, 2009

    Hi all, I really hope this is not a dumb question and that someone will answer it.

    Will the outcome of the competition create a lab kit that can be used in the synthesis of genes and or DNA? And will the kit be available for experimenters?

    Good luck to everyone.

    Thanks, Norman.

  3. Jim H. #
    April 9, 2009

    iGEM is traditionally an undergraduate competition. Any idea if there is an age limit on nonacademic/amateur teams, or if anyone will be able to join?

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