iGEM 2013: Excellent results from French teams

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Since 2012, the Office for Science and Technology of the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles has been financially supporting participation of French teams in competitions and scientific games organized in the USA, in the field of Life Sciences, through the grant “Life Sciences: inventing – creating – having fun”. In May 2013, four French teams participating in the iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine) competition were granted: Bordeaux, Evry, Grenoble-EMSE-LSU and Paris-Bettencourt (see article).

iGEM is an international collegiate Synthetic Biology competition initiated at the prestigious MIT in 2003-2004. Every year, it gathers an ever-increasing number of teams from around the world (over 200 registered teams in 2013). Teams have around six months to modify bacteria, or any other type of cell, by inserting DNA fragments in order to give rise to new functionalities.

After two European Jamborees in Amsterdam, teams from all over Europe met in Lyon to present their project on October 11, 12 and 13, 2013. The Lyon team, who has been participating to iGEM since 2010, decided not to enroll any team this year in order to be fully invested in the organization of the Jamboree. Around 130 volunteers contributed to the smooth flow of the event, for the 700 participants who came from all over Europe, in a joyous and relaxed atmosphere.

iGEM 2013 Europe Regional Jamboree Results

  • Gold medal for five French teams: Evry, Grenoble-EMSE-LU, INSA Toulouse, Paris Bettencourt and Paris Saclay;
  • “Best Human Practice, Overgraduate”: Evry;
  • “Best Model”: Grenoble-EMSE-LSU;
  • “Best Wiki, Overgraduate”: Paris Bettencourt;
  • Paris Bettencourt team was one of the three finalists in the “Overgraduate” category and finished Second Runner Up.

Evry and Paris Bettencourt teams were granted advance to the World Championship Jamboree in Boston, MA, to defend the colors of France from November 1-4, 2013.

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iGEM 2013 World Championship Jamboree (Boston, MA)
Grand Prize Winner, Overgrad: Paris Bettencourt
© iGEM Foundation / Justin Knight

Paris Bettencourt team, pioneer of the iGEM movement in France, presented a very ambitious project to fight tuberculosis with modern weapons, thanks to biotechnology tools. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that affects one third of the world population, including over 5000 people in France, and causes 1.3 million deaths per year. This team’s work addressed new strategies to fight Mycobacterium tuberculosis ranging from the development of a phage-delivered biosensor that cuts specific DNA sequences and detects the presence of resistance genes to the creation of a phage vector that delivers an siRNA capable of sabotaging drug resistance and restore sensitivity.

On top of those excellent scientific results, the team also presented their comprehensive and quantitative gender study in iGEM and synthetic biology, in order to promote gender equality in science. Their study revealed a correlation between gender diversity and success in iGEM. Paris Bettencourt team, comprising six males and seven females, finished Grand Prize Winner and Best Health & Medicine Project for the “Overgraduate” category; from theory to practice?

iGEM is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2014. On this occasion there will be no regional jamborees, all registered teams will be invited to attend a five-day Giant Jamboree in November 2014. Over 2500 attendees are expected to attend the largest single event in the history of iGEM and synthetic biology.

The call for projects “Life Sciences” is renewed for 2014. The deadline for applications is April 13, 2014 (click here for more information).

— Viviane Chansavang

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