Contest drives genetic engineering advances

MIT's 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition has yielded an open source, Internet-based cellular engineering program to assist in synthetic biology design, and software tools for creation and assembly of DNA-sequence parts.

Undergrads at the University of Illinois came up with the Interactive Metabolic Pathway Tools (IMP Tools) for model-guided cell engineering to add metabolic functions to existing microorganisms. The program will assist in the design stage of synthetic biology research. IMP tools take a user-defined input compound, output compound, and weighting scheme and determine the ideal pathway from starting to end compound.

Students at the University of California, Berkeley, meanwhile, developed separate software tools for the creation of standardized parts, the construction and specification of devices from these parts, and the automatic assembly of these devices. For parts creation, students developed a domain-specific language called Eugene for the specification of biological constructs and rules for their creation.  For parts construction, they developed a visual design environment called Spectacles. Workflows for the Kepler design environment completed the project.

- here are the project abstracts

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