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International Genetically Engineered Machine

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Date(s)October, 23 - 26 (2024)
VenueParis Expo Porte de Versailles, France (2022~)
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, United States (2014-2019)
MIT, Boston, United States (2003-2013)
Location(s)Paris, France (2022~)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States (2003-2019)
With additional events worldwide
Most recent
iGEMersAnnually: 10 000+ participants, 400+ teams

Since 2003: 80 000+ participants, 4500+ teams
Organised byiGEM Foundation

The iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition is a worldwide synthetic biology competition that was initially aimed at undergraduate and 'overgraduate' university students, but has since expanded to include divisions for high school students, entrepreneurs, and community laboratories. iGEM is presented as "the heart of synthetic biology" - educating the next generation of leaders and workforce of the field. In 20 years since its inception, over 80 000 students from over 65 countries have been trained in the responsible, safe and secure use of synthetic biology.

The iGEM Competition is a flagship program of the iGEM Foundation - an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open, collaborative, and cooperative community. Aside from the competition, iGEM has established many initiatives and programs to support the future growth of synthetic biology throughout the world: iGEM Community, iGEM Technology, iGEM Responsibility, iGEM Startups, and iGEM Leagues.

Competition details[edit]

Student teams are given a kit (so called ‘Distribution Kit’) of standard, interchangeable parts (so called 'BioBricks') at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts comprising various genetic components such as promoters, terminators, reporter elements, and plasmid backbones. Working at their local laboratories over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.

The teams are free to choose a project, which can build on previous projects or be new to iGEM. Successful projects produce cells that exhibit new and unusual properties by engineering sets of multiple genes together with mechanisms to regulate their expression.

At the end of the summer, the teams add their new BioBricks to the Parts Registry and the scientific community can build upon the expanded set of BioBricks in the next year.

At the annual ‘iGEM Jamboree’ teams from all continents meet in Paris for a scientific expo event and conference where they present their projects to each other and to a scientific jury of ~400 judges. The judges award medals and special prizes to the teams and select a ‘Grand Prize Winner’ team as well as ‘Runner-Up’ teams in each division (High School, Undergraduate and Overgraduate).

Awards & Judging in the iGEM competition[edit]

Each participant receives a participating certificate (see fig. below) and has the possibility to earn medals (bronze, silver and gold; see fig. below) with their team depending on different criteria that the team fulfilled in the competitions. For a bronze medal it is for example necessary to submit a new part to the Parts Registry, for a silver medal the team is required to document the functionality of a part and for a gold medal it is finally, among other criteria, necessary to obtain a proof-of-principle for the team's project.

In 2016 as an example, 300 teams participated in the competition from which 37% received a gold medal, 25% a silver medal, 26% a bronze medal and 12% were not awarded a medal.

In each division, the best performance in a certain aspect of the competition is honored with special prizes. The special prizes include: 'Best Project' in the respective categories (app. 10 categories), 'Best Art & Design', 'Best Hardware', 'Best Measurement', 'Best Software', 'Best Human Practices', 'Best Model', 'Best New Part', 'Best Poster', 'Best Presentation', 'Best Wiki' and others depending on the competition year. Together with individual certificates, the teams are given glass trophies for each special prize (see fig. below).

From all teams in a respective division, a number of finalists are selected (1 to 6, depending on year and division) and allowed to present their project again in front of all Jamboree participants. From the presented projects all judges select the winner of this year's iGEM competition, the Grand Prize Winner team, who are then awarded a big metal Lego-brick (see fig. below). The winning team may keep this challenge trophy for a year until it gets awarded to the next 'Grand Prize Winner'. Participants of a 'Grand Prize Winner' team are also given challenge coins of the respective year (see fig. below).

History of the competition[edit]

Growth of the annual iGEM Jamboree[1]
Year No. of participants
31(5 teams)
125(13 teams)
723(32 teams)
777(54 teams)
1,248(88 teams)
1,840(113 teams)
2,327(128 teams)
2,586(165 teams)
3,696(190 teams)
4,027(215 teams)
4,515(245 teams)
5,018(280 teams)
4,432(300 teams)
5,386(310 teams)
5,790(340 teams)
6,375(353 teams)
4,800(249 teams)
7,314(350 teams)
7,757(356 teams)
8,541(400 teams)

iGEM developed out of student projects conducted during MIT's Independent Activities Periods in 2003 and 2004.[2][3] Later in 2004, a competition with five teams from various schools was held. In 2005, teams from outside the United States took part for the first time.[4] Since then iGEM has continued to grow, with 130 teams entering in 2010.[5] Randy Rettberg, an engineer who has worked for technology companies including Apple, Sun and BBN,[6] is the founder and president of iGEM.

Because of this increasing size, in the years 2011 - 2013 the competition was split into three regions: Europe, the Americas, and Asia (though teams from Africa and Australia also entered via "Europe" and "Asia" respectively).[7] Regional jamborees occurred during October; and some subset of teams attending those events were selected to advance to the World Championship at MIT in November.[8]

In January 2012 the iGEM Foundation was spun out of MIT as an independent non-profit organization located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. The iGEM Foundation supports scientific research and education through operating the iGEM competition. The same year, iGEM expanded into having not only the Collegiate division, but also competitions for entrepreneurs and high school students.

For their tenth anniversary, iGEM added new tracks to the existing ones: Art & Design, Community Labs, Entrepreneurship, Measurement, Microfluidics, Policy & Practice, and Software. Although Entrepreneurship and Software were tracks in previous years, in 2014 they were made more distinct in terms of their judging requirements.[9] Furthermore, in 2014 iGEM did not have regional jamborees, but instead hosted a giant jamboree so every team could participate in one conference in Cambridge unlike in previous years where only the regional finalists were brought to Cambridge.[10]

The iGEM Jamborees for 2020 and 2021 were held online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting in 2022, the event was redesigned and rebranded to the iGEM Grand Jamboree, held in the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles.

Broader goals[edit]

Beyond just building biological systems, broader goals of iGEM 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 and safely[11] apply biological technology.

iGEM's dual aspects of self-organization and imaginative manipulation of genetic material have demonstrated a new way to arouse student interest in modern biology and to develop their independent learning skills.

Competition Results[edit]

Best iGEM Medal by Country - All Divisions (until 2019).
  Gold Medal
  Silver Medal
  Bronze Medal

High School Division[edit]

Grand Prize Winners by Country - High School (until 2019).
  1 Title
  2 Titles
  3 Titles
  4 Titles
Top High School Teams by Year
Grand Prize 2nd 3rd Complete Results
2023 Japan-United Japan BASIS-China China iGEM 2023
2022 Lambert_GA United States PuiChing_Macau Macau iGEM 2022
2021 LINKS_China China SZ_SHD China iGEM 2021
2020 TAS Taipei Chinese Taipei GreatBay SCIE China iGEM 2020
2019 GreatBay SZ China iGEM 2019[permanent dead link]
2018 GreatBay China China[note 1] iGEM 2018[permanent dead link]
2017 TAS Taipei Chinese Taipei iGEM 2017
2016 HSiTAIWAN Chinese Taipei iGEM 2016
2015 TAS Taipei Chinese Taipei iGEM HS 2015
2014 CSIA-SouthKorea South Korea TP CC-SanDiego United States[note 2] TAS TaipeiChinese Taipei iGEM HS 2014
2013 Lethbridge Canada Canada AUC Turkey Turkey CIDEB-UANL Mexico Mexico iGEM HS 2013
2012 Heidelberg LSL Germany NC School of Sci Math United States CIDEB-UANL Mexico Mexico iGEM HS 2012
2011 Years prior to 2012 had no separate high school division.

Undergraduate Division[edit]

Grand Prize Winners by Country/Region - Undergrad (until 2019).
  1 Title
  2 Titles
  3 Titles
Top Undergraduate Teams by Year
Grand Prize 2nd 3rd Complete Results
2023 McGill Canada Vilnius-Lithuania Lithuania NUS-Singapore Singapore iGEM 2023
2022 TU-Eindhoven Netherlands INSA_Lyon1 France HKUST Hong Kong iGEM 2022
2021 Toulouse INSA-UPS France NUS-Singapore Singapore Shanghai Tech China China iGEM 2021
2020 Vilnius-Lithuania Lithuania Toulouse INSA-UPS France XMU China China iGEM 2020
2019 NCKU Tainan Chinese Taipei Calgary Canada TU Kaiserslautern Germany iGEM 2019[permanent dead link]
2018 Valencia Spain UC San Diego United States SZU-China China iGEM 2018[permanent dead link]
2017 Vilnius-Lithuania Lithuania William and Mary United States Heidelberg Germany iGEM 2017
2016 Imperial United Kingdom Sydney Australia Australia SCAU-China China iGEM 2016
2015 William and Mary United States Czech Republic Czech Republic Heidelberg Germany iGEM 2015
2014 Heidelberg Germany Imperial United Kingdom NCTU Formosa Chinese Taipei iGEM 2014
2013 Heidelberg Germany TU Munich Germany Imperial United Kingdom iGEM 2013[note 3]
2012 Groningen Netherlands Ljubljana Slovenia Paris Bettencourt France[note 4] LMU Munich Germany iGEM 2012
2011 Washington United States Imperial United Kingdom ZJU China China MIT United States iGEM 2011 [note 5]
2010 Ljubljana Slovenia Peking China BCCS Bristol United Kingdom Cambridge United Kingdom Imperial United Kingdom TU Delft Netherlands iGEM 2010 Archived 2013-01-12 at archive.today
2009 Cambridge United Kingdom Heidelberg Germany Valencia Spain Freiburg Germany Groningen Netherlands Imperial United Kingdom iGEM 2009 Archived 2013-01-13 at archive.today
2008 Ljubljana Slovenia Freiburg Germany Caltech United States Harvard United States NYMU Taipei Chinese Taipei UC Berkeley United States iGEM 2008
2007 Peking China Paris France Ljubljana Slovenia UC Berkeley United States UCSF United States USTC China iGEM 2007 [note 6]
2006 Ljubljana Slovenia Imperial United Kingdom Princeton United States iGEM 2006
2005 Years prior to 2006 had no specific winners. iGEM 2005
2004 IAP 2004, SBC 2004
2003 IAP 2003

Overgraduate Division[edit]

Grand Prize Winners by Country/Region - Overgrad (until 2019).
  1 Title
  2 Titles
  3 Titles
Top Overgraduate Teams by Year
Grand Prize 2nd 3rd Complete Results
2022 Estonia-TUIT Estonia Leiden Netherlands iGEM 2023
2022 UCopenhagen Denmark Montpellier France iGEM 2022
2021 Marburg Germany TU Delft Netherlands iGEM 2021
2020 Leiden Netherlands Aachen Germany iGEM 2020
2019 EPFL Switzerland Wageningen UR Netherlands iGEM 2019
2018 Marburg Germany Munich Germany iGEM 2018[permanent dead link]
2017 TU Delft Netherlands Munich Germany[note 7] iGEM 2017
2016 Munich Germany[note 8] Wageningen UR Netherlands iGEM 2016
2015 TU Delft Netherlands BGU Israel Israel iGEM 2015
2014 UC Davis United States Wageningen Netherlands TU Darmstadt Germany iGEM 2014
2013 Paris Bettencourt France Bielefeld Germany Sun Yat-sen China iGEM 2013[note 9]
2012 Years prior to 2013 had no separate overgraduate division.


  1. ^ Team from seven different high schools.
  2. ^ Combined team from Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy.
  3. ^ In 2013 iGEM was divided into an undergraduate and an overgraduate section. The criterion for division was the participation of team members older than 23 years.
  4. ^ Students were from different universities of Paris (Paris Descartes University, Paris Diderot University, Pierre and Marie Curie University).
  5. ^ As of June 2012, the 2011 results page does not include results from the Championship Jamboree; but details can be found at the Jamboree page.
  6. ^ 2007 had six finalists but none were selected as specific runners-up.
  7. ^ Combined team from Technische Universität München and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
  8. ^ Combined team from Technische Universität München and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.
  9. ^ In 2013 iGEM was divided into an undergraduate and an overgraduate section. The criterium for division was the participance of team members older than 23 years.


  1. ^ "iGEM Competitions". igem.org. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  2. ^ "Learn about iGEM". Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  3. ^ Trafton, Anne. "Rewiring Cells". Technology Review.
  4. ^ "iGEM 2005". Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  5. ^ "Previous iGEM Competitions". iGEM. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  6. ^ Rettberg, R.; Dally, W.J.; Culler, D.E. (1998). "The Bleeding Edge". IEEE Micro. 18. IEEE: 10–11. doi:10.1109/MM.1998.653009.
  7. ^ "Team List 2011". iGEM. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Jamborees". iGEM. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Tracks 2014". iGEM. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Giant Jamboree". iGEM. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  11. ^ Guan, Zheng-jun; Schmidt, Markus; Pei, Lei; Wei, Wei; Ma, Ke-Ping (2013). "Biosafety Considerations of Synthetic Biology in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition". BioScience. 63: 25–34. doi:10.1525/bio.2013.63.1.7.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]