Thursday, January 15, 2009



From Seth Frey:

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) is coming to Bloomington. It is a contest built on a set of standards that enable students to design novel organisms for engineering purposes with minimal capital and training.

The most fascinating projects I have found are:
-E. Coli that generates peppermint smell when it is growing and banana smell when it stops
-Another organism that emits a red dye if it is in arsenic laced water; providing a cheap arsenic test.
-Photosensitive E.Coli; literal biofilm. In the attached flier, you see a print of the classic "Hello World". There can be no more overt demonstration of the intent to turn biology into engineering/programming.

These are organisms engineered by students with a toolkit of standardized genes. The callout next Thursday is to recruit a team to participate in iGEM2009. Bioengineering experience is not required. The contest was started at MIT and in the past four years has grown from 5 to 84 participating schools from around the world.

Thursday, January 22
6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Jordan Hall room 239
Pizza at 5:45 pm

And for your browsing pleasure:
iGEM 2008 is the most recent contest.
The Registry of Standard Biological Parts, in which a 'part' is a gene that has been modified to suit the easy-to-work-with BioBrick standard.
OpenWetWare provides tech support.


Luis's choice of illustration is compelling. The prime reason I have been excited about iGEM is its power to make genetic engineering accessible. The question of the morality of genetic engineering in itself is currently irrelevant to influencing what is happening today. The question must be "Will genetic engineering create more public good and less public ill if it is accessible to very the very few who can afford the capitol or if it is available to anyone with a garage and some glorified kitchen appliances?" I myself am not %100, but I am leaning towards the latter. And if iGEM is not the way to make that happen, than it is the way to understand why it shouldn't. Either way, it will be invaluable in helping us find the role for bioengineering in society.
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