MIT's student-run synthetic biology research team.

Detecting cancer in human tissues, LM.

Aamir Ahmed, Jane Pendjiky and Michael Millar.

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

About us

iGEM (“International Genetically Engineered Machine”) is a worldwide synthetic biology competition aimed at promoting the safe and open development of engineered biology. iGEM started at MIT as an IAP (“Independent Activities Period”) course in January 2003 before becoming a competition in 2004 and growing to hundreds of teams in more than 40 countries globally today.

In iGEM, student-led teams devise an independent research project in a iGEM track of their choosing, ranging from diagnostics to nutrition to manufacturing. The goal is identify a problem, devise gene circuits to address it, and demonstrate a proof of concept in the lab.

The MIT iGEM team consists of students from a wide range of departments and disciplines, including biology, bioengineering, electrical engineering and computer science, math, chemistry, mechanical engineering, architecture, and more. Since 2003, the MIT iGEM team has been supported by the MIT Synthetic Biology Center and the Weiss Lab, and is currently operating out of the Huang-Hobbs BioMaker Space (HHBMS).

MIT iGEM projects have focused on a wide range of topics. Below are the titles of projects previous years have worked on:

  • 2004: Synchronized chemotactic oscillators
  • 2005: Making bacteria produce proinsulin in response to glucose
  • 2006: Eau d'e coli - engineered scent systems in E. coli
  • 2007: Using surface display of polystyrene-binding proteins and heavy metal promoters to remove mercury from water
  • 2008: Drug delivery through yogurt
  • 2009: Localizing proteins with light
  • 2010: Programmable, self-constructing biomaterials
  • 2011: Mammalian cell patterning and tissues by design
  • 2012: Encoding genetic logic in small RNA-based logic gates
  • 2013: Synthetic cell-to-cell communication for synthetic tissues
  • 2014: Improving the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease
  • 2015: Turning agricultural waste into biofuels
  • 2016: Diagnosing endometriosis
  • 2017: Using dCas13a to control alternative splicing in mammalian cells
  • 2018: Reducing cavities by circumventing biofilm formation
  • 2019: Directed migration of neutrophil-like cells through engineered chemokine secretion
  • 2020: Synthetic mammalian circuitry for graded treatment of COVID-19 cytokine storms
  • 2021: Probiotic treatment for Maple Syrup Urine Disease
  • 2022: GSHield, a smart glutathione patch to prevent oral mucositis
  • 2023: CAR-P Diem, engineering macrophages to degrade IL-6, a driver of cancer cachexia
  • 2024: Targeting cancer metastasis

iGEM 2024

This year, the students in MIT iGEM are tackling the greatest challenge in treating cancer: cancer metastasis.

Follow our progress on Instagram and X (Twitter).

Join iGEM

If you want to learn synthetic biology, and want to be part of a student-driven project to tackle a problem you care about, you would be a good fit for MIT's iGEM student team!

Applications for MIT iGEM 2025 will open in September 2024.

Upcoming events

Our supporters

MIT iGEM would not be possible without our supporters. We wish to express our sincerest gratitude for their generosity!

MIT Biological EngineeringMIT Chemical Engineering
MIT School of EngineeringMIT UROP
DeFlorez Endowment FundRalph L. Evans (1948) Endowment Fund