College and high school students from the world over begin convening in Boston today for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition to present biotech projects they've been working on all summer. Teams were provided with a kit of standard, interchangeable biological parts and challenged to make a new, creative biological system out of them. This ain't your little sister's science fair.
This year's iGEM is hosting 130 teams from the U.S, Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Each team has a wiki to explain their synthetic biology project and its results. The competition can also serve as recruiting grounds, drawing the attention of commercial biotech firms, many of whom sponsor teams to help pay for the costs of competing in iGEM.
Cambridge University won last year's competition with a color-coded biosensor that changes hue in the presence of certain compounds. They are currently working with a team from the University of Edinburgh to use the sensor to help detect arsenic, a system several firms are already interested in.
This years' entries include a biosensor for in vivo detection of HPV and a synthetic cancer-killing biomachine. You can browse the teams' wikis here.