iGEM 2022 Paris Results and Recap
Introduction to the Jamboree
The iGEM 2022 Grand Jamboree—an important and highly prestigious competition in synthetic biology—took place for the 19th time in October 2022. After nearly four years of preparation and behind the scenes work to move the event to an international location, it was hosted at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris, France. More than 350 teams from 40+ countries joined this year’s Grand Jamboree, both in person and virtually to present projects tackling humanity’s most important issues, including human health, the climate crisis, and food security. Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) has been a platinum sponsor of the iGEM Giant Jamboree for the last nine years. Each year, IDT provides up to 20 kb of gene fragments or equivalent value of other products to teams from around the world, assisting young scientists in their research. IDT is proud to be able to support the development of the next generation of scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs. We were fortunate to be accepted as judges for this year’s competition and we had the opportunity to interact with teams in person and learn about their projects, as well as their vision of the future of synthetic biology.
Impressions as a first-year iGEM judge
The iGEM Jamboree is a high-energy and fun environment. It didn’t take much time to recognize the impressively high level of more than 350 scientific projects created by teams of students from different age groups (high school to graduate students). The research experiments that they designed and implemented, and their ability to develop both a scientific research project and business plan, clearly demonstrated the potential for their continued development as scientists and entrepreneurs.
The diversity of problems that teams aimed to solve was also impressive, ranging from developing novel biopolymers that can be used in fishing nets to using microRNA biomarkers to screen for coronary artery disease (CAD). One project in particular that caught the attention of the judges, was the grand prize winner in the undergrad category. The team, TU Eindhoven, from the Netherlands designed !MPACT, a Modular & Personalized Autoimmune Cell Therapy system. This system can identify autoantibodies linked to the anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitides (AAVs)—a group of disorders involving severe, systemic, small-vessel vasculitis. Their ultimate long-term goal is to shift the paradigm of using general and unspecific approaches to manage autoimmune diseases to a more personalized system.
Besides the competition itself, the social and networking aspect of iGEM is also an important part of the iGEM Jamboree experience. Many students were interested in learning what various companies—present at iGEM as sponsors—had to offer in terms of their products, but also future career steps. For some students, this is their final year at iGEM, and they will either continue their journey in academic research or explore other possibilities, e.g., as entrepreneurs (by creating their own start-up companies) or intrapreneurs (by making changes within established organizations).
IDT’s booth at the Jamboree was always full of young researchers, some of whom stopped by to get a coffee and play a round of scientific trivia, while others had specific questions about IDT products and internship opportunities that could help them advance their research.
At IDT, most of the internship positions are handled through official job postings and interested students should keep an eye on IDT’s job board. Alternatively, informal routes for finding an internship at IDT exist for both undergraduate and graduate students. Some of the key elements of being offered an internship position is to have the right skillset and the right contact in one’s network. My impression from being actively involved as a judge in this year’s competition, is that iGEM is an extremely promising venue for making the right connections, establishing future collaborations, and expanding one’s professional network.
A student interested in an internship position may find a person to contact, for example, by researching IDT’s website or by speaking to a representative at one of the many events organized by IDT.
Final thoughts about iGEM 2022
This year’s Jamboree was special in many ways. It was the first in-person iGEM meeting since the COVD-19 pandemic began and it was the first time this competition took place in Paris, France. Despite these changes, some things remained the same. Just like in previous years, students from all over the world were nervous and eager to have the opportunity to present the results of their hard work.
Hosting an event of such scale and complexity is always a challenge. This year's team behind iGEM did an impressive job organizing the competition in a new venue and in a different country, dealing with new post-COVID-19 rules, and overseeing many exciting programs that are being continuously developed and improved within the iGEM community. Next year’s Jamboree has all the promise to be even more thrilling and special.
iGEM 2023 will mark the 20th anniversary of iGEM and the 10th anniversary of IDT being its platinum sponsor. As always, IDT appreciates the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of responsible, impactful, and innovative synthetic biology research as well as to the development of aspiring researchers and entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to learning just how far the organizers—and even more importantly, the teams— will be able to push the boundaries of synthetic biology next year.