What is iGEM?
The International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) is the flagship student competition of the global synthetic biology community. First held at MIT in 2004, the competition brings together biology students from around the world every year in a global battle for the best synthetic biology ideas in Boston, USA. Student teams register in March and work together to brainstorm and select a synthetic biology idea that they can work on over the summer. The best iGEM teams consist of members from diverse fields including Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, Computer Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Statistics etc., all of whom work together to build synthetic biology solutions around different local and global problems. They design and invent new BioBrick devices (standardized DNA that can be snapped together like Lego) to build biological systems (genetically engineered cells) that perform useful functions. The team then prepares posters and prototypes to present at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, USA in October/November.
Hosted at the Institute of Integrative Biosciences – CECOS University and funded by the Directorate of Science and Technology – KP Government, iGEM Peshawar is Pakistan’s first and only team to represent the country in Boston.
Headed by Dr. Faisal Khan, Director IIB, the 12 member 2016 team put Pakistan on the Synthetic Biology map by competing against 300+ teams from 40 countries and winning a Bronze medal at the iGEM World Championship for their project “Inspector NOCOLi” a bacterial biosensor for the detection of harmful gases in vehicle exhaust fumes. Read more about their project here.
The 2017 team brought further honor to the country by winning a Silver medal this year as well as a Best Biosafety nomination for their multi-faceted “Project F”: An engineered fish to sense and report for the presence of heavy metal contaminants in freshwater as well as the world’s first ever Bacterial-Human Interface – MAX – a bot that allows bacteria to send humans text messages. Read more about their project here.