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IGEM 2008 Competition: Genetically Engineered Machines

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posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 10:40 AM
Today, the winners of the iGEM competition, held annually at MIT, will be announced.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts.

The goal of iGEM is to design DNA, implant this DNA in bacteria, and see what happens.

Results of past competitions include blinking cells, sweet smelling bacteria, pollution and toxin bio-sensors, and even cancer targeting bacteria.

Here is a view of the standard parts:

Anyone who thinks this technology exists only in the distant future is mistaken. It is happening right now, for better or worse.

I will watch for the results, announced later today, and post the information here.

I hope we end up with a new synthetic fuel and not some bio-weapon. I am optimistic.

posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 04:11 PM
I've been monitoring this all day, had have news of one of the sixteen gold medal winners: Dr. Coli, an E. coli bacterium, designed by University of Leuven, in Belgium. The Leuven design team created a modified bacteria that can produce a drug in an arbitrary way, when and where it is needed in the human body.

According to their website, it performs this activity in an intelligent way, so that each individual patient is treated according to particular needs. When the patient is cured, the Dr. Coli bacteria eliminates itself from the body.

These are Gold Medal winners (one of sixteen winners in this category.) This is no trivial award, and they are to be highly commended.

However, they are not the grand prize winners, still to be announced.

[edit on 9-11-2008 by Buck Division]

posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 04:55 PM
The winner is SLOVENIA - not Leuven!!!!!!

Team: Slovenia 2008 wiki

posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 05:06 PM
I've been online all day awaiting news -- especially about some of the bio-fuel contestants from University of Wisconsin. The only winner that has released any information is the University of Leuven, and I am still awaiting some information on the other winners.

[edit on 9-11-2008 by Buck Division]

posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 05:16 PM
Still waiting.

From the iGem website, there is one Grand Prize, and a first and second runner up...

Edit: Removed comments about how slow iGEM is to report their findings. (I need to practice patience here.)

[edit on 9-11-2008 by Buck Division]

posted on Nov, 9 2008 @ 07:11 PM
Grand Prize Winner....

Team Slovenia! For a modified bacteria to fight heliobacter pylori (the main cause of acid reflux, heartburn, and possibly esophageal cancer.) This genetically engineered machine triggers an adaptive immune response, and also acts as a receptor for heartburn antagonists. In addition to the primary purpose of reducing heartburn, this engineered bacteria also has the potential for becoming a general vaccine, with widespread applications.

Second place grand prize winner: Team Freiburg, for creating a synthetic receptor kit "made in the Black Forest" using DNA-Origami as a programmable input device.

Third place grand prize winner: Team Caltech, for engineering a suite of microorganisms and microbes to assist in pathogen defense.

So there you have the winners. Congratulations to all of them.


This is how the future comes at us. It sneaks up, without much announcement, and suddenly changes our lives dramatically.

In particular, I've seen a lot of threads here dealing with Cancer cures and other medical breakthroughs, discussed over the past several weeks. All good discussions. However, there is little doubt in my mind that this is the type of indication we will receive when a true breakthrough occurs. We will receive -- not much indication at all. Just a soft spoken whisper, to let us know something new has moved in, and will be staying a while.


I know there are a lot of ATSers out there reading this (although nobody has commented) and it would be really gracious to go to the above blog and post a congratulatory comment to these people. It is quite likely that they had a greater influence over your personal fate than anything else you discussed or knew about today.

[edit on 9-11-2008 by Buck Division]

posted on Nov, 10 2008 @ 12:07 AM

Originally posted by Anonymous ATS
The winner is SLOVENIA - not Leuven!!!!!!

Team: Slovenia 2008 wiki

Thanks, Anonymous.

Unfortunately, ATS doesn't post anonymous replies immediately, otherwise you could have saved me a very impatient wait! (Your message appears before my posts, but nobody saw it until a few minutes ago.)

Any elaboration would be great! Were you part of this team?

Great work!

posted on Nov, 10 2008 @ 10:55 AM
Honorable Mention: Bio-Beer

I wanted to add this entry, and give it my personal award. Unlike the Grand Prize Winners above, this is very easy to relate to. I am looking for more news about Team Rice, but here is what I know right now.

BioBeer, as it's called, has three genes spliced into special brewer's yeast that produce resveratrol, the chemical in red wine that is thought to protect against diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and other age-related conditions.

The eight graduate and undergraduate students created BioBeer as part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. BioBeer, and the other iGEM projects, are "just the tip of the iceberg," says Randy Rettburg, iGEM Director.

I have no knews on whether this particular entry placed in the iGEM contest, but they definitely get an honorable mention from me.

I think it was well stated by the iGEM director: This is the beginning of an entirely new type of technology, similar to the creation of the computer. If you can engineer beer to protect against diabetes and cancer, how far away are we from creating machines that specifically fight these fairly incurable diseases?

Amazing stuff.

posted on Nov, 11 2008 @ 08:29 AM
I want to mention one more contestant in the iGEM competition. It is one of my own personal pick in this contest: the University of Wisconsin.

This team received a "bronze" medal for their work in bio-fuels. I have been following this group for some time now, and am a bit disappointed that they didn't fair better, but they still have much to be proud of.

I think their ambition is quite profound:

I feel like there is a big misconception that some energy sources out there now, like corn, could be the answer to everything. But it's not the answer. We need to find a way to be much more efficient making biofuels, and our team was trying to improve on that.

We're taking a different approach in that we're actually going to the waste material within plants. We're not taking food; we're taking things that would have been discarded in the first place and trying to solve a way to make fuel out of that."

The goal is to take organic trash (not food), and turn it into high-grade fuel, suitable for running engines. Their basic approach was to engineer bacteria that can decompose wood and other materials, create sugars, and use that to efficiently create ethanol.

Everyone talks about doing this type of stuff, but here we see these University of Wisconsin students are actually making it happen.

There are various beautiful aspects to project. This highly engineered bacteria replicates itself like crazy, yet has numerous safety features that ensure it cannot operate in the environment unchecked.

Unfortunately, the team had a few setbacks. To be expected on a project like this, for sure. But it seems highly likely that they, or others will be successful in the future.


I will conclude by saying this is field will have vast ramifications, beyond anything you expect. As the above link says, it seems a bit like a science fiction story, but is completely upon us as a practical technology.

Currently, it is barely at the edge of our collective consciousness. However, I predict (along with many others) that this will be the principle technology of our century. We will be hearing more about this for the remainders of our lives. I've enjoyed placing this into the ATS public record and am sure that, even though I've received sparse comments from other members, it will become obvious that this thread was quite prescient!

As a last word, I think it is appropriate (this being a conspiracy website) to end with an ominous question about all this: If undergraduate students can engineer new vaccines, brew better beer, create trash eating bacteria -- how difficult would it be for a fully equipped government laboratory to create deadly disease, toxic germs that pollute our food supply, and bacteria that destroy our infrastructure completely?

I think it would be quite simple to induce fear in this technology, much the same as the fear associated with nuclear power, and drive this technology into the shadows, where it exists only to harm and not benefit mankind. I hope that does not happen, but given the lack of awareness by the general population regarding bio-engineering, the subject is agreeable to malicious manipulation on many different levels.

It is a possibility worthy of consideration, but hopefully not something that needs to be dwelled upon.

posted on Nov, 11 2008 @ 01:03 PM
Hi Guys, I was one of the volunteers running iGEM this year and I conducted about 10 3-minute interviews with interesting teams about their projects and the exciting new parts they built for the community. Check it out at

posted on Nov, 11 2008 @ 07:41 PM
Truly great video archive on this event:

Thanks for the tip! It feels like I was there!

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