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iGEM 2014 Entrepreneurship New Track


We are excited to announce that iGEM will continue to have an entrepreneurship track in 2014. Teams who are interested in commercializing their work in synthetic biology are encouraged to apply. Teams can apply with software, hardware and wetlab projects. Example teams in each of these categories can be found below.

Entrepreneurship in iGEM is about fostering the development of a new industry where Synthetic Biology is the underlying technological platform. As with any new industry, it is not clear which business plans will be the most successful. But, there are also more fundamental questions: What Business models will succeed, how will intellectual property affect company formation and funding, what skills are required at each stage of company’s life cycle, how will government policies promote or hinder new companies, what will be the social contract with Synthetic Biology companies?

The iGEM competition is a great way to form a team and begin learn many of the "soft skills" necessary to make a startup. There are few opportunities to undergraduates that give students the freedom to focus on the scientific and/or entrepreneurship development of their idea. iGEM has already seen ten startups come from iGEM teams and iGEMers. The list of teams we know of can be found on the iGEM Startups page.

Previous iGEM Entrepreneurship competitions

While teams have gone on to start companies from very early on in the history of iGEM, entrepreneurship was first introduced as a separate division in 2012 . The inaugural year saw 18 teams register, and 14 of those attended the Jamboree at MIT. There were two main awards in the 2012 competition:

The division was folded back into the main competition as a track in 2013.

The focus of the entrepreneurship track in iGEM is to allow teams to compete on the commercialization of their ideas. Teams can work with biological system and are encouraged to make and submit parts to the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, but this is not a requirement for iGEM-E. Successful entrepreneurship teams should aim to produce a business plan, lightening or elevator pitch along with a wiki, poster and presentation at the Jamboree.

Previous teams

2013 University College London Entrepreneurship: Darwin Toolbox

From their wiki: "We are building a safe, user-friendly, affordable biotechnology laboratory in a beautiful 13 x 11 inch box, containing a centrifuge, a PCR machine and a gel electrophoresis unit inclusive with transilluminator.

Our aim is to increase the reach of synthetic biology by providing the tools and infrastructure that will make biotechnology more accessible in educational settings and in citizen science. Darwin Toolbox connects effortlessly to a laptop or tablet computer to help keep track of experiment records and enabling them to be easily shared online with friends and collaborators."

2013 Calgary Entrepreneurial: FredSense

Calgary won the 2013 competition with the development of their FREDsense project.

From their iGEM wiki: "We are FREDsense Technologies, a Calgary-based venture developing biosensor detection systems to rapidly determine toxicity in water samples. Our first product is a sensor for general toxicity. Capable of reporting an output in under five minutes, it is cost effective due to the simple materials used in its construction, and highly robust through built-in control systems. Currently, we have submitted a provisional patent on our technology, which has a wide variety of uses as a platform technology with numerous different potential markets beyond this first iteration.

Our product fits into the environmental monitoring market, a market that has been established as a byproduct of the oil and gas sector, which produces over 200 million litres of waste water per day. This waste is contained in massive lakes known as tailings ponds, which pose a serious concern to both the environment and to industrial processes. Alberta’s Provincial government enforces a zero discharge policy of water from these ponds, and government regulation requires that oil sands companies monitor their tailings ponds. As well, regulation enforces monitoring water quality in the surrounding lakes, water streams, and ecologically sensitive areas. Present technologies for monitoring water quality in the oil sands are highly analytical, however they pose problems due to their expensive nature, requirements for highly trained personnel, sample processing time, and the need for materials to be transported to off-site facilities. There is a need for new technology in order to meet the growing need to monitor samples on-site in a rapid and cost-effective manner."

2012 MIT Entrepreneurship: Benchling

From their wiki: "Benchling is a platform for life science data management. It allows scientists to edit, analyze, and share DNA sequence data.

Scientists build with DNA, just like programmers do with code. Major biotech companies account for 2% of the US GDP. Despite this value, there is no version control in life science. These companies have no cloud-based tools for facilitating collaboration and sharing between their scientists."

2012 University College London: Morph Bioinformatics

From their wiki: "Codon Usage Optimizer (CUO) focuses on providing usability, performance and flexibility to molecular biologists. It features modular codon optimization tools that can be created, posted, reused, revised, improved and shared without any limitation. The open source platform provides a melting pot for the evolution of sequence optimization technology, which is steadily taking off owing to the falling price of gene sequencing and synthesis.

In addition, services are included such as one-on-one & group training, consulting, and technical support tailored to tackle issues around the genome optimization project."

After participating in the 2012 iGEM Entrepreneurship competition, Morph Bioinformatics went on to found a company in the UK and release an app in the Apple app store. Their app, called Lab Officer helps streamline workflow in the lab by giving the user access to protocols, buffers recipes, DNA sequences and other key information without the need to use a computer. You can visit their company site here: Morth Bioinformatics .


Entrepreneurship teams must meet the general iGEM 2014 requirements. In addition, Entrepreneurship teams must meet the following track specific requirements:

  • Lightning pitch: iGEM Entrepreneurship teams should prepare a lightening or elevator pitch. This should be a 3 minute summary of what you are trying to do, how you are doing it and why your audience should invest in you.
  • Business Plan Submission: Submissions are needed to create a valuable community and commons of ideas. Teams are required to document the inspiration and examples of their business models, and solutions to common problems early SB entrepreneurs will likely encounter. The team's submission must be documented on the iGEM Wiki, including but not limited to a public executive summary, elevator pitch (max 3 min) video, and public presentation (Slides). You may upload your video to Vimeo or similar video sharing site that allows embedding so you can share your video on your Wiki, but you must also provide a copy to iGEM HQ.
  • Confidentiality: iGEM does not take a position for or against intellectual property in Synthetic Biology. Note that the iGEM Entrepreneurship track does not require judges to sign non-disclosure agreements.
  • Parts: Teams in the Entrepreneurship track will not receive a copy of the 2014 distribution. They are not required to perform wet-lab work or to deposit new BioBricks in the Registry. Teams that do wish to receive a distribution copy of the 2014 Distribution must request one from entrepreneurship [at] igem [dot] org, and be affiliated with a university or community laboratory. Teams that do wish to use and submit a new part must adhere to safety and iGEM submission guidelines.

Medal Criteria

We're working on our medal criteria and will have it posted soon. Watch this space!

Entrepreneurship Track Committee:

We are still assembling the committee for iGEM 2014. If you are interested, please contact hq [at] igem [dot] org.