What's iGEM?

iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, is the largest synthetic biology community and the premiere synthetic biology competition for both university and high school level students. iGEM inspires learning and innovation in synthetic biology through education, competition and by maintaining an open library of standard biological parts, the Registry of Standard Biological Parts.

Over 18,000 of the brightest young scientists and engineers have participated in iGEM as students, instructors, or advisors.
iGEM began in January 2003 with a month-long course during MIT’s Independent Activities Period where students designed biological systems to make cells blink. This university design course then grew to a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004. 10 years later, we’ve grown to 245 teams from over 32 countries.
The High School Division was introduced in 2011, allowing high school student teams to experience iGEM in ways that fit the schedules, resources, and structures available to high school teams.

iGEM: official Website

Official iGEM Logo  

iGEM Aachen

iGEM Aachen Logo

Team 2021: Storagene

iGEM Team Aachen 2021 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

Humanity produces enormous amounts of data, soon this could become too much for today's storage systems. In our project called Storagene, we have developed an enzymatic DNA synthesis using the enzyme TdT (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase) for long-term data storage. DNA, the genetic data storage in our cells, is ideal for preserving information due to its enormous information density and durability. Therefore, we developed the DIP method, in which the TdT extends an immobilized primer on a magnetic stick with specific nucleotides in solution. By studying the characteristics of the TdT, we have found optimal reaction conditions to fine-tune the extension of the primer. Through our customized hardware, the process of converting data to DNA can be done automatically. In addition, our software enables the seamless conversion of data into genetic language and the readout of data generated by nanopore sequencing.

  Storagene Logo Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

Project Idea Storagene:


Team 2020: M.A.R.S. - Magnetic ATP Recycling System

iGEM Team 2020 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

The very complex and costly regeneration of biochemical energy sources represents a cost-intensive hurdle for many production and research processes. In our current project "M.A.R.S.", we are tackling this problem in two ways. Using synthetic biology, we are investigating innovative and standardisable ways of producing biochemical energy sources in a bioreactor. The energy source is thus located directly at the place where it is needed. Furthermore, our bioreactor is characterized by a combination of new immobilization and mixing techniques as well as the resulting reusability of the regeneration components.

  M.A.R.S. - Magnetic ATP Recycling System Copyright: © iGEM Aachen M.A.R.S. - Magnetic ATP Recycling System

Project Idea: M.A.R.S.


Team 2019: Plastractor

Illustration idea behind Plastractor Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

We are happy to see that you are interested in synthetic biology and over all interested in our project!

Currently everybody talks about environmental pollution by plastic. But not only big plastic waste, like plastic bottles, are a problem for us, but also microplastic, which e.g. was found in drinkable water.
In our project we develop the 'Plastractor', which can remove microplastic by the use of magnetospirillum (microbe of the year 2018). This gram negative bacterium is naturally magnetic because of magnetosomes and can bind to different types of plastic with our help. Because of that the 'Plastractor' will not only be able to remove the plastic, but also sort it by the help of different binding peptides.

  iGEM Aachen 2019 Logo Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

Project Idea: Plasttractor


Team 2018: MelaSense

iGEM Team 2018 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

The hormone melatonin is present in many different organisms. In the human body, its most important function is the regulation of the day-night rhythm. Therefore, it is often involved in sleeping-disorders.

Furthermore, melatonin plays a role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. As melatonin can degrade ROS “Reactive Oxygen Species”, it protects mitochondria and permits cells to live longer.

Nowadays, melatonin concentration is measured only rarely despite being involved in different diseases. We hope to change this and make people aware of the importance of melatonin by developing a biosensor making the measurement faster and cheaper.

Project Idea: MelaSense


Team 2017: Salt Vault

iGEM Team 2017 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

More and more people worldwide have to deal with a lack of drinkable and usable water, even though two thirds of the worlds surface are covered with water. The problem: NaCl makes seawater unusable for humans. In adition to that most of the rivers here in Germany face higher amounts of salts due to potashproduction and industrial use of water. Our Idea is to create a genmodified yeast (S.cerevisiae) which is capable of taking up and storing salts, in our case NaCl. Therefore we are planning to modify the already existing NaCl ionpathways of S.cerevisiae which forces the yeast cell to store the ions in its vacuole, a naturally existing storing compartiment, instead of pumping it back into the water. In addition to that, we will integrate the vacuolar salt sequestration mechanism of Arabidopsis thaliana into the yeast genome. In conclusion our modified cells will be microbial dustbins within the water which can be filtered off from the deionized water afterwards. Since common desalination methods like reverse osmosis are highly energy consuming we hope do develop an energy-efficient alternative to desalinate water with this technique.

  iGME Aachen Sault Vault Logo Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

Project Idea: Salt Vault


Team 2016: Light-activated enzymes instead of toxic boracic acid

Photo of the iGEM Team 2016 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

Since June 2010, boric acid is listed by ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) as a Substance of Very High Concern and moreover, is tested on further hazard potentials. Despite these concerns, boric acid is still regularly used in liquid detergents. Here, it serves as a stabilization agent for the enzymes that are essential for washing.
To replace boric acid, we are looking for an ecological alternative based on synthetic biology.
Our team consists of bachelor and master students from the following disciplines: biology, biotechnology, biomedical engineering and informatics.

Project Idea

Logo iGEM 2016

Team 2015: Upcycling Methanol Into an Universal Carbon Source

Photo of the iGEM Team 2015 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

We implement Methanol in biotechnological processes to uncouple them from agricultural products. The combination of Science and Engineering in our team enables us to advance progress in synthetic biology. Our mentors Prof. Blank, Prof. Schwaneberg and Prof. Wiechert complete our team


We establish a new and efficient metabolic pathway to convert methanol to products which are in great demand.


We develop a miniature bioreactor with continuing analytics for our project. It distinguishes itself by being very cost-effective and very easy to implement.

Logo of the iGEM Team Aachen 2015

Team 2014: "Cellock Holmes - A Case of Identity"

Photo of the iGEM Team 2014 Copyright: © iGEM Aachen

iGEM Team Aachen 2014 developed a modular Biosensor for detection of pathogenic germs and cost-efficient laboratory tools, that can be assembled according to the principle "do it yourself".

Logo of the iGEM Team Aachen 2014