Press Releases/Winners-2018-November-9

International Genetically Engineered Machine

iGEM Announces Winners of Premier Synthetic Biology Innovation Competition

International student teams bring home grand prize awards to China, Germany and Spain from the 2018 Giant Jamboree

Boston, Mass., November 9, 2018 — iGEM, the pioneering organization of synthetic biology and driving force of the industry, announced the winners of its annual international student competition awarded at the iGEM 2018 Giant Jamboree, the largest synthetic biology innovation event in the world. Award-winning projects include engineering catnip that promotes safer and more compassionate trap-neuter-release activity, automating the process of printing genetic circuits in bacteria, and developing a cancer detection platform by combining machine learning and synthetic biology.

The Giant Jamboree is the culminating event of iGEM’s annual, worldwide, synthetic biology innovation competition for high school, undergraduate and overgraduate students. These teams represent local people solving local problems everywhere around the world. Each year, the competition brings together more than 6,000 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 35,000 people have participated in iGEM’s competition since it began in 2003.

This year, 340 teams of student scientists and engineers from more than 40 countries spent at least eight months building and testing boundary-pushing genetic devices. 3,000+ team members attended the Giant Jamboree in Boston this October to present their work to peers and judges. The five-day event featured a myriad of project presentations, poster sessions, practical and philosophical workshops, and social events.

“This year’s Giant Jamboree was a spectacular display of hard work and ingenuity. These students are showing the world what’s possible when we fearlessly tackle tough problems and open our minds to new applications of engineering biology,” said Randy Rettberg, co-founder and president of iGEM. “Many of the projects presented at iGEM will serve as the foundation and inspiration for important research, influential companies and international interest to come – this weekend’s participants are most certainly tomorrow’s leaders.”

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

About the Winners

Undergraduate Winners:

  • Grand Prize: Valencia UPV for creating an intuitive, affordable bioengineering device – Printeria – that opens the field of synthetic biology to artists, educators and others.
  • 1st Runner-Up: UC San Diego for developing a non-invasive, early cancer detection platform – Epinoma – by combining machine learning, liquid biopsy, and synthetic biology to improve patient care.
  • 2nd Runner-Up: SZU China for engineering Cockroach Terminator - a biological solution for controlling cockroach populations that is safe, effective and environmentally friendly.

Overgraduate Winners:

  • Grand Prize: Marburg for accelerating metabolic engineering by designing a toolbox to engineer Vibrio natriegens, the world’s fastest growing bacterium.
  • Runner-Up: Munich for introducing a new manufacturing pipeline for bacteriophages – Phactory – for treating bacterial infections without triggering antibiotic resistance.

High School Section

  • Grand Prize: Great Bay China for engineering mCATNIP, the active ingredient in Catnip, useful for compassionate control of stray and feral cat populations.

Chairman’s Award
The Chairman's Award recognizes excellence beyond that of the main project goals. It looks at the “iGEM spirit” and awards the team that best embodies the values of good sportsmanship, integrity, respect and cooperation. This year's recipient was team OLS Canmore Canada, for their work on improving laboratory accessibility for persons with physical disabilities.

Additional Resources

  • A complete list of results is available here, including winners for each of 12 tracks and other special awards and medals.
  • Resources relating to future competitions can be found here on the 2019 competition website.
  • Learn more about iGEM’s alumni program “After iGEM”, and get in touch today to continue engaging with the synthetic biology community.
  • To apply for iGEM’s Ambassador Program, learn more here and submit your applications here by November 30, 2018.

About iGEM
iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that pioneered the synthetic biology industry and continues to advance the field through education, competition and industry collaboration. iGEM’s annual student competition is the largest synthetic biology innovation program and a launchpad for the industry’s most successful leaders and companies. The competition empowers thousands of local people to solve local problems around the world by engineering biology for safe and responsible solutions.

The After iGEM program supports the competition’s 35,000+ participants in their future endeavors to continue leading and setting the standards for synthetic biology on an international level. iGEM’s community is comprised of students, leaders, investors, influencers and policymakers who continue to work toward a strong, responsible and visionary synthetic biology industry. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Bateman Group for iGEM PR
Jordyn Lee
press [AT] igem [DOT] org