Hidden Gems of iGEM

The 2009 iGEM Jamboree just wrapped up at MIT yesterday. For a summary of the results, check out 2009.igem.org. Rob Carlson also has a few posts at synthesis.cc. I thought I’d mention some of the cool work that didn’t make it into any of the awards that folks here at Ginkgo saw. (Too much good stuff happening at iGEM!)

Some of the simplest and most interesting work work in human practices was from Peking University in Beijing, China. The team was interested in DIY biology and how easy it is for amateurs and hobbyists to obtain those supplies. They ordered a variety of typical molecular biology supplies like restriction enzymes and DNA purification kits to their homes from companies around China to see which would fulfill an order to a residential address. For an anonymized summary of their results, check out their wiki page. Their human practices study was straightforward, timely and very interesting.

A second impressive project was from the U.C. Berkeley wetlab team which made a whopping 800 basic and composite standard biological parts by automating the process of part fabrication and assembly. (I believe there was a snafu in shipping so their parts aren’t listed as sent in the Registry yet.) Berkeley’s work represents a ~4-fold increase in the number of parts that other teams have contributed. With that kind of part making and assembly capability, teams can feasibly prototype working multi-component engineered biological systems in a summer. It really represents a step-change in what a team can do.

Finally, there was of course the Lego liquid handling robot from 11-year old child prodigy Gabriel See at the University of Washington. Sadly Gabriel got sick and couldn’t make it to the Jamboree but sent a cool video of him demo’ing his robot instead.

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