iGEM iGEM 2019 photo from above
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Recap of the iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree

The future of the synthetic biology industry was on display at the iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree, held 31 October through 04 November at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA. Showcased were cutting-edge innovations created by the world’s brightest young synthetic biologists from colleges, universities and high schools across the globe. Award-winning projects include the biosynthesis of colored spider silk for greener and more ethical textile manufacturing, a biological system for detection and relief from chronic kidney disease, and a field-deployable diagnostic test to detect fatal plant diseases and save crop loss.

The Giant Jamboree is the culminating event of iGEM’s annual synthetic biology innovation competition for collegiate and high school students, and the largest synthetic biology innovation event in the world. Each year, the competition brings together more than 7,000 participants from across the globe to explore unique applications of synthetic biology and build solutions that offer positive contributions to their communities and society at large. More than 40,000 people have participated in iGEM’s competition since it began in 2003.

As part of the competition, participants consider the ways in which their work will impact society, and engage with their local communities to explore ethical, legal, social, economic, safety and security implications. These considerations are crucial for building safe and responsible projects that serve the public interest and, on a larger scale, help set the standards for the entire synthetic biology industry.


Teams raise their hands for the iGEM 2019 “iGEM from above”

This year, 353 teams of student scientists and engineers from 42 countries and regions spent the past eight months designing, building and testing biological systems to solve local problems that help tackle global challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation, clean water, sustainable agriculture, human health, and more. Over 3500 participants attended the 2019 Giant Jamboree, where student teams gathered together to celebrate their work and accomplishments with peers, members of the synthetic biology research community, industry leaders, policy makers, and the public. The five-day event featured a myriad of project presentations, poster sessions, workshops, and a career fair to foster relationships within the synthetic biology community.

184 judges cast their votes, generating nearly 93,000 data points upon which winning teams were selected. And the results of the 2019 iGEM competition were impressive indeed, with 163 teams earning gold medals, 77 teams earning silver, and 57 teams earning bronze. And dozens more awards and special prizes recognized teams demonstrating excellence in each of 11 tracks and other categories. Nominees and winners of the grand prize in each division were:


iGEM 2019 Undergraduate Grand Prize Winner, Team NCKU Tainan


Grand Prize: NCKU Tainan (National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan) for developing a comprehensive approach to chronic kidney disease, including biological systems for measuring blood p-Cresol levels and reducing p-Cresol production in the gut.

1st Runner-Up: Calgary (University of Calgary, Canada) for engineering a biological system to replace current environmentally-detrimental methods for removing excess chlorophyll from canola oil.

2nd Runner-Up: TU Kaiserslautern (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Germany) for creating a biological recycling method for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a major plastic component, integrated within waste management and water treatment centers to eliminate plastic pollution.


iGEM 2019 Overgraduate Grand Prize Winner, Team EPFL


Grand Prize: EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) for introducing a field-deployable test enabling farmers to detect fatal plant diseases and save crop loss, while reducing pesticide use.

Runner-Up: Wageningen UR (Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands) for developing a biological solution for Xylella fastidiosa, a devastating plant pathogen threatening olive trees, grapevines and other host plants, and causing environmental and economic damage across Europe.

High School:

Grand Prize: Great Bay SZ (Shenzhen, China) for biosynthesis of colored spider silk, a material with applications in medicine, textiles, and aerospace fields.


Team GreatBay SZ receiving their awards at iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree

iGEMers’ Prize:

The iGEMers’ Prize is a special award voted upon by the participants of the iGEM competition. Teams receiving the iGEMers’ Prize are selected by their peers, and represent the teams that inspired, engaged, or entertained each other the most at the Jamboree. This year’s recipients of the iGEMers’ Prize were Brown/Stanford/Princeton (Undergraduate), UCopenhagen (Overgraduate) and Great Bay SZ (High School).


Close up from the crowd from the iGEM 2019 “iGEM from above” photo

As is true every year, the excitement at the iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree was palpable. And for those who have yet to experience an iGEM Giant Jamboree, this is an event not to be missed. There are many ways to engage with iGEM, and we invite you to:

  • Participate in iGEM by starting a team, becoming an advisor or judge, joining a committee, and more. Information and resources for participating in iGEM 2020 will be available here.
  • Learn more about iGEM and the future of synthetic biology by following the iGEM Blog and iGEM Digest.
  • Explore iGEM’s alumni program “After iGEM” for more opportunities to work toward a strong, responsible and visionary synthetic biology industry on an international level.
  • Invest in the future by partnering with iGEM, exhibiting at future iGEM Giant Jamborees, or sponsoring iGEM teams. Contact: sponsor [AT] igem [DOT] org.

Originally published on https://blog.igem.org/blog/2019/11/13/recap-of-the-igem-2019-giant-jamboree

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