Team:Queens Canada/synbio


What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biology is an exciting new field that applies engineering principles to biological systems in order to create novel organisms that are beneficial to human beings. Synthetic biology had its inception in 1978, when the discovery of restriction enzymes gave scientists the basic tools necessary to cut DNA into discrete segments, the first step in harnessing their engineering potential. Since then, this toolkit has expanded rapidly, to the point where now even a team of undergraduate students can create a synthetic organism in as little as a couple months of the summer!

Synthetic biology allows the construction of genetic circuits that have the potential to change the world. Despite its infancy, this synthetic biology field has already found many practical applications for its products. Insulin for diabetics is currently produced in massive quantities by synthetic bacteria. Before this, insulin had to be harvested from pig or cow pancreases in a process which is both cruel and inefficient. Synthetic biology has also been instrumental in fighting famine across the globe by producing genetically robust crop lines that are much more durable than their natural counterparts. As we move into the future it will be fascinating to see what change this genetic revolution inspires.

About iGEM

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition was started in 2004 at MIT as a way to get students actively involved in the fledgling field of synthetic biology. More than a hundred teams from around the globe enter each year, making it one of the world’s largest undergraduate conferences. The objective is to create a biological ‘machine’ that can perform a real-world task through genetic engineering. Projects are judged based on the new genetic parts they contribute, characterization of these parts, collaboration with other teams, and development of new standards, presentations, and capabilities.