iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machine competition)
is a competition of university students organized by the MIT (Massachussets Institute
of Technology) with the purpose of stimulating the interdisciplinary investigation in
the new field of Synthetic Biology.
The students, who usually do not have a previous
formation in Biology and come from different disciplines (engineering, physics, chemistry,
computer science, etc.), would unite their efforts to design (under the direction of
specialists of the field) cellular prototypes, composed of synthetic biological circuits,
able to perform new functions.
Synthetic Biology can be said to have been born in the
summer of the 2004, with the first conference dedicated to this subject. It combines the
methods of engineering with Biology to give rise to a scientific discipline that tries
to introduce new biological circuits (formed by proteins and nucleic acids) in cells to
transform them into small robots able to carry out complex tasks, like detecting and
destroying tumors or producing low-cost anti-malaria drugs.