Duke genetically engineered machine team

Check out the official Duke iGEM Website!

Synthetic Biology and Genetic Engineering for Human Health and Society

What is iGEM?

The Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team was founded to stimulate students’ interest in science and engineering and prepare them to be future leaders in these emerging fields. The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education, competition and the development of an open community, currently comprised of over 45 participating countries. iGEM’s biggest program is the iGEM Competition. The annual iGEM Competition encourages students to work together to solve real-world challenges by building genetically engineered biological systems with standard, interchangeable parts. Made up of primarily university students, multidisciplinary teams work together to design, build, test, and measure a system of their own design using interchangeable biological parts and standard molecular biology techniques. Every year nearly 6,000 people dedicate their summer to iGEM and then come together in the fall to present their work and compete at the annual Jamboree. 

iGEM projects have several key components: 1) implementation of the design-build-test cycle for synthetic biology in the lab; 2) evaluation of the ethical and societal impacts of the project; and 3) education and dissemination through an iGEM website, local high school student outreach and team representation at the annual international iGEM competition. Duke's iGEM team is done in collaboration with Bass Connections and the Woo Center for Big Data and Precision Medicine. There have been several iGEM teams including the 2018's Taxol Biosynthesis in E. Coli, 2017's HIV Rapid Diagnostic Test Using Grffithsin, 2015's Antibiotic Resistance Detector all the way back to 2006's, Engineering Synthetic Oscillatory Gene Networks at the Population Level!

Our Project 

This project team will work with an advanced genome editing system (CRISPR-cas9) for genetic engineering. The team has identified drug screening in mini brain cultures to improve its efficiency, the team is currently designing a functional genetic circuit synthetic biological solution composed of a genetically engineered microbial machine. This project addresses challenges in pediatric brain cancer research. Team members are using advanced synthetic biology and metabolic engineering methodologies in the proposed solutions.

The team will design, build and test a genetically engineered machine, and submit a set of BioBricks (standardized, modular DNA segments) to an international repository accessible by universities and independent labs across the world. Team members will also prepare an informational website regarding their iGEM project, submit a research paper to the bioRxiv and create a policy brief or safety report addressing the societal impacts of the developed synthetic biology solution.

In addition to the technical aspects of the project, the team’s projects incorporate a substantial policy component that encourages creative thinking about the societal landscape of synthetic biology. Entrepreneurship will also be emphasized as team members seek ways to implement their projects within society. The team will also work closely with the local community, such as teaching at high schools, and increase community awareness of the impact of synthetic biology.


DIPG culturing 

IL 6 and 12 gene circuit 

computational characteristics of DIPG 


 Meet the Team 



Zhaohui Wang, Ph.D. | Executive Director Woo Center for Big Data & Precision Health

Faculty Leader of iGEM team



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Cameron Kim, Ph.D. | Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering

Faculty Leader of iGEM Team




Xiling Shen | Director Woo Center of Big Data and Precision Health

Faculty Contributer




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Jason Somarelli, PhD | Faculty Member in Duke Comparative Oncology

Faculty Contributor




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Ruopu Jiao | Senior, Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science 

Undergraduate Leader

RJ works in the Gersbach lab here at Duke on CRISPR/Cas9 based therapeutics for genetic diseases. He is fascinated with the potential that genetic engineering has for novel therapeutics and developing a better understanding of the genome in general.



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Tim Ho | Sophomore, Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Leader

Tim's research interests include synthetic biology and artificial intelligence.







Caroline Anderson | Junior, Biology (Genomics) & Chemistry

Undergraduate Researcher

Caroline's research interests include synthetic biology and host-microbe interaction. Outside of iGEM, she works at the Ko Lab studying Salmonella and is in Navy ROTC. 




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 Trevor Gannalo | Junior, Biology & Computational Biology 

Undergraduate Researcher

Trevor is very interested in gene circuits and genetic engineering, especially as it relates to plant biology and crop development.




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 Andres Bermudez | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Researcher

Andres is interested in neuro-oncology and genetic engineering, so this project is the perfect intersection of his prospective fields!


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Andy Qiao | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Researcher 

Andy is interested in applying the principles of synthetic biology towards the establishment of more personalized and effective medical therapies. He is excited to be on the iGEM team this year!



Ashley Jones | Sophomore, Biology (Molecular and Cellular)

Undergraduate Researcher

Ashley is interested in working with stem cells and using them to create a better system to model and report different cancer therapies.




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Happy Yao | Sophomore, Undeclared 

Undergraduate Researcher

Happy has a strong interest in gene therapy in clinical applications.




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Isabella Wang | Sophomore,  Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science

Undergraduate Researcher

Isabella is interested in the application of engineering and computer science to problems in health and medicine, including synthetic biology and medical devices.





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Jessica Shah | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Researcher

Jessica's research interests include tissue engineering, biomimetics, and regenerative medicine. Outside of iGEM, she is an undergraduate researcher at the Musah Lab studying kidney glomerulus organ-on-a-chip devices.



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 Jihyeon Je | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering & Electrical and Computer Engineering

Undergraduate Researcher

 JJ is interested in computational and machine learning applications in analyzing biological systems.




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Juseong (Joe) Kim | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science

Undergraduate Researcher

Joe's research interests include biomedical and health data sciences, synthetic biology, and neural engineering.



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Sara Liszeski | Sophomore, Interdepartmental Major (Computer Science & Biomedical Engineering)

Undergraduate Researcher

Sara is interested in the applications of synthetic biology to sociology, behavior, and neuroscience.




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Shaun Wu | Sophomore, Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Researcher

Shaun's research interests include reporter system and image analysis of brain tumors.




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Rahul Prakash | Sophomore, Biomedical engineering & Computer Science

Undergraduate Researcher 

Rahul's research interests are the applications of bioengineering in combination with neural programming and practical AI, to the field of cancer research.



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 Research Products

Anticipated outputs: Genetically engineered machine; research paper; policy/safety report