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6 March 2013

Dear iGEMers,

Hello and welcome to iGEM 2013! The quiet winter months have flown by and team registration will soon be opening. Last year at Headquarters, we focused on transitioning out of MIT, moving into our new space in One Kendall Square and establishing ourselves as the iGEM Foundation. We are coming up to our one-year anniversary and everything is going great! This year, we are working on making all aspects of iGEM better in preparation for your 2013 competition.

We like keeping things new and fresh. iGEM 2013 is a year of many changes to “make iGEM better.” We would like to talk about all the things we have been working on and are excited about this year:

Team Composition

Is iGEM an undergraduate competition? We now realize that the term “undergraduate” is not a universal concept worldwide and has been difficult to define. In addition to the terminology issues between regions, we have been sensing a gap between the younger and older students that may lead to perceived unfairness. We want everyone to be able to participate in iGEM.

To address these issues, we are introducing a new section to allow these older students to compete. This new open section will be called the Overgraduate section and students of any age and education level can participate. It is an opportunity to for anyone, regardless of age or title, to participate in iGEM.

If your team has students over the age of 23 on March 31st 2013, your team is in the Overgraduate section. If your team is comprised of students 23 or younger, you are in the Undergraduate section.

In addition, if your team is does not have students 24 years of age or older, you may still choose to opt-in to participate in the Overgraduate section if you want.

All teams regardless of their section still get to participate in the Jamborees -- they will be the same event for both sections. The judging committee will be working on awards over the next several months so be on the look out for updates on 2013.igem.org.

The Overgraduate and Undergraduate sections are an experiment for iGEM 2013. Tell us what you think!


In order to support the growing interest of software in synthetic biology, we introduced the software division to iGEM some time ago. We continue to support Software teams and will continue to develop this division as we believe software tools are an essential part of Synthetic Biology and iGEM.

Two years ago, we launched a High School division. This year 30 teams registered. These young students work from February to June with the HS Jamboree taking place over the last weekend of June in Greenfield, Indiana. We have teams from all over the world competing again this year, including US, Mexico, Canada, UK, Greece, Turkey, China, and South Korea.

The Entrepreneurship division was introduced last year as teams wanted to think about making companies from their iGEM projects. The iGEM Entrepreneurship Division will continue for iGEM 2013 in an extended pilot form. If your team is interested in participating in the Entrepreneurship Division, please contact hq AT igem.org.

iGEM Registry and 2013 Distribution

One of the things we are really excited about for iGEM 2013 is the new Registry. We know the registry has looked a little dated in the last few years. This year, we have worked very hard on redesigning and refactoring the Registry.

To start, The Registry software now understands RFCs #10, #12, #21, #23 and #25. We will work to expand this as we see other methods that may be useful to the iGEM community. With the refactored Registry software, we are able to identify and confirm more parts that have been contributed to the collection. As the software understands more, more samples will become 100% sequence confirmed and be available for request.

Over the winter we worked hard to pick the best parts in stock to include in the 2013 distribution. All the parts samples are 100% sequence confirmed so you know the samples you are getting match the reference part sequence on the Registry. Our philosophy of “Get and Give” now embodies the best parts we have in stock and can include in your Distribution.

The quality of part documentation has greatly improved in the last few years. Gone are the days when a part consisted only of a name and a sequence. We have an incredible volume of information on part pages. with images, plots, characterization data and more.

However, not all parts are highly-documented, highly used or sequence confirmed. We are making the Registry better over time. As such, we will begin to discontinue parts from the Registry that do not meet quality criteria. We may discontinue thousands of parts that are cluttering up the Registry.

Overall, we are working on improving the Registry so you can navigate through the great parts we have in our collection and browse for awesome stuff like gas vesicles or chromoproteins, as well as essential parts like promoters and terminators.

DNA Assembly

We have also been working on DNA assembly. In the beginning of iGEM, BioBrick RFC10 standard made assembling two fragments of DNA much easier. The power of this standard is DNA assembly itself is not an experiment. It works without the need to find specific restriction sites or order custom oligos. RFC10 has served the community well for over 10 years and will continue to be a simple and great way to work with standard, interchangeable parts.

However, we appreciate that synthetic biology based on assembly of parts is evolving and we see that there are some great assembly schemes being developed that will be useful for the iGEM community. We have spent some time looking at assembly standards over the winter. There has been a growing interest in "single-pot" techniques, such as Golden Gate, Gibson, USER, MoClo and others. Synthesis is also starting to become a viable alternative to cloning for some teams. We will be performing our own testing and validation in the lab before officially supporting new standards.

iGEM HQ will be working hard in these areas and more to make synthetic biology based on standard parts and assembly easier and faster for teams. We want to be able to take advantage of recent progress in these areas and intend to support new techniques where appropriate and possible.

iGEM Fees

It is our intention that the team registration fees stay low for small teams and be larger for big teams. We achieve this through a low spring team registration fee and a separate per person Jamboree attendance fee. This year, the team fee is $2750 USD and the attendance fee is $375 USD.

The team registration fee is the fee for a team to participate in iGEM. All teams, wetlab, software and entrepreneurship pay the same fee. High school teams pay a high school fee.

The attendance fee is the fee for a person to attend the Jamboree with their team. As noted above, part of this fee accounts for team size.


Competition has been strong in recent years and we know iGEM teams love competing against each other. But iGEM is also about learning, sharing and doing synthetic biology. We want to turn down the competitiveness a notch and celebrate more of the great work you guys produce.

We are going to highlight more work from the teams during the summer on the main page of iGEM.org. We are putting a “featured parts” on the main page of the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. We will create a summary digest of the 2013 competition, like an annual report with some quick statistics and highlights. We also want teams to tell us what they do after the Jamboree. Working on a publication, a company, a piece of software or anything else from your project? Tell us!

Ten years of iGEM

Finally, next year will see a big change to iGEM. To mark the 10th year of the iGEM competition, we are going to bring everybody back together for one giant jamboree in November 2014! All teams will meet together in Boston for a single event. There will be hundreds of teams and thousands of iGEMers! Stay tuned for more details…

We have been really busy during the iGEM off-season. We hope you like the changes we made and that you and your team will benefit from all our improvements to the competition. As always, iGEM is great and getting better! It’s time for instructors to recruit, advisers to prep, students to brainstorm and teams to register. Good luck in the 2013 competition!

- iGEM Headquarters

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