iGEM - The international Genetically Engineered Machine competition
iGEM addresses the question: Can simple biological systems be built from standard, interchangeable parts and operated in living cells?
Or is biology simply too complicated to be engineered in this way?
The only way to answer this is to actually try to engineer biological devices.
The iGEM competition facilitates this by providing a library of standardized parts (we call these parts BioBricks) to students, and asking them to design and build genetic machines with them. Of course, students are welcome (and encouraged!) to make their own BioBricks as well.
Information about BioBricks, and a toolkit to make and manipulate them, is provided by the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, or simply, the Registry. This is a core resource for the iGEM program, and one that has been evolving rapidly to meet the needs of the program.
Beyond trying to answer the question above, our broader goals include:
- To enable the systematic engineering of biology
- To promote the open and transparent development of tools for engineering biology
- And to help construct a society that can productively apply biological technology
Are we any closer to finding an answer to our question? In just three years, iGEM teams managed to partially or completely build a variety of systems, from biosensors to biological photographic film, so it's looking positive that engineering biology is possible. More data on other exciting projects was presented at the 2006 Jamboree in November.
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