How iGEM is shaping synthetic biology research and why labfolder strives to help

What is iGEM?

The International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation (IGEM) is an independent, non-profit company that provides students with the tools to harness synthetic biology. The foundation provides the means to design biological systems, which can then be operated in living cells. The goal of the foundation is to create the building blocks of an open community, while also endorsing collaboration.

Birthed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2003, iGEM began as an independent study course where students developed biological devices to make cells blink. Over the years, the competition has expanded in size and complexity, to include high-school students and undergraduates. Moreover, different tracks have been introduced to provide focus areas for each team’s project.

The aim of this competition is to provide a first taste of life in the laboratory, to help students gain insight into a career within the lab, as well as doing important synthetic biology research. Whether it’s creating a new biological system or building and improving on previous systems, there is no limit to what iGEM teams can discover.

Why do we want to be involved?

At labfolder, we know that digital research data management will be a major component of every laboratory in the future. As a multi-disciplinary team with PhD graduates and biotech enthusiasts, we want to support the new generation of scientists to learn how to use an ELN and understand the advantages of these systems when compared with the traditional paper lab notebook.

Since iGEM provides an excellent platform for budding biologists by providing a first real laboratory experience, it is only natural that we offer our ELN Advanced edition for free. This year we are proud to have over 20 iGEM teams using our platform to manage the data generated during the competition. We hope to continue our support by providing free software to even more teams, in order to help participants enhance their laboratory experience in preparation for a professional career in the lab.

These are all the locations of the iGEM teams with whom we have provided our ELN:

igem map

Who are we supporting in the competition?

Our ELN users include a diverse group of iGEM teams from all over the world, stretching from Japan to Egypt. For one of our iGEM teams, IISER-Kolkata from India, this is their first time using ELN software.

The aim of their project is to develop a targeted mechanism to combat the tropical endemic disease leishmaniasis. This neglected Tropical Disease affects more than one billion people in developing countries, predominantly in tropical and subtropical conditions in more than 149 countries. Leishmaniasis is a highly deadly disease, which indirectly causes poverty, malnutrition, deforestation, and urbanization.

The iGEM team is using the BioBricks to genetically engineer a bacterium which can sense a Leishmania-infected macrophage using nitric oxide sensors. In response, it should express an iron chelator and a reactive oxygen species, producing an enzyme to effectively kill the disease as well as the engineered bacteria within the macrophage. This prevents the genetically modified bacteria replicating outside the macrophage.

This is just one of the many important research projects being worked on through the iGEM competition. These teams are vital for the enhancement of research in fields that are desperately needed in our society. Aniruddh Deshpande, the group leader for IISER-Kolkata, has given some insight into his team’s experience with using our ELN during iGEM:

“The coolest thing about iGEM is the full research experience while being undergrads. In such a lab-intensive project, labfolder has helped our data organization by giving us an online platform to store and share information. labfolder’s ELN has helped to keep an online record of the various experiments we perform. Being a 12 member team, we can’t be together all the time. labfolder’s ELN makes sure that this fact doesn’t hinder our progress.”

Next steps

We will continue to provide free access to our ELN’s Advanced editions for all teams that participate in the IGEM this year and in the future. Our team will also organize a personalized workshop with each iGEM team so they learn more about digital research data documentation and management.

Our goal, at labfolder, is to continue increasing the number of teams that use our ELN for the iGEM competition. If your team is participating in iGEM, contact us and we will set your team up for the competition.

Get our ELN for your iGEM team

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