This year’s Georgia Tech iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team was one of only 15 teams in North America chosen to compete in the World Championship Jamboree at MIT, November 1-4, 2013. The team’s goal is to develop cells and platelets that display sensory-response behaviors and act as ‘smart’ biobots which can duplicate the function of cells responsible for repair and adaptation. This is the first time in the four years of Georgia Tech's participation in iGEM that the team has been awarded the gold medal and advanced to the world championship. The team will travel to MIT in early November for the upcoming competition.
Nearly 300 colleges and universities from around the world registered a team and participated in this competition. Teams designed and employed standard biological parts in order to carry out a designated function within living cells. Early in October, the Georgia Tech iGEM team was awarded a gold medal at the North American regional jamboree. The team will now advance to the world championship. Out of the 65 registered teams in North America, only 13 undergraduate teams received a gold medal and advanced to the world competition.
The Georgia Tech iGEM team consists of seven undergraduate students: Tilak Balavijayan, Rachael Blackstone, Spencer Cooper, Haoli Du, Casey Haynes, Jack Jenkins, and Jessica Siemer. The team was assembled in the summer of 2013 and has been working towards expressing human integrin sensors on the surface of E. coli cells, a feat that has not yet been accomplished. The team is advised by Anton Bryksin, Vince Fiore, and Haylee Bachman, lab space was provided by Thomas Barker in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Georgia Tech and partial financial support by the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
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. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. This project design and competition format is an exceptionally motivating and effective teaching method. The iGEM Jamboree is the largest annual gathering of synthetic biologists.