Media Releases

International Synthetic Biology Competition to come to U of T

September 27, 2013

50 teams from United States and Canada will take part

TORONTO, ON — Teams of fac­ul­ty and stu­dents from North Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties will gath­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to in a com­pe­ti­tion to see who has the most nov­el ideas in the trans­for­ma­tive new field of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy.

Syn­thet­ic biol­o­gists engi­neer biol­o­gy to cre­ate tools that may solve some of the world’s most press­ing prob­lems in such areas as health care, ener­gy pro­duc­tion and envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion.

Each team in the com­pe­ti­tion has been giv­en a kit of bio­log­i­cal parts. Work­ing at their own schools over the sum­mer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build bio­log­i­cal sys­tems and oper­ate them in liv­ing cells. Pre­vi­ous projects in the com­pe­ti­tion have includ­ed Bac­to­blood in which a team trans­formed a bac­te­r­i­al cell into a sur­ro­gate red blood cell and grew batch­es of syn­thet­ic blood. Such a prod­uct could one day be used to grow blood for trans­fu­sions in places where there is lim­it­ed sup­ply such as dur­ing mil­i­tary con­flicts or nat­ur­al dis­as­ters. Oth­er teams have devel­oped bac­te­r­i­al sen­sors that are use­ful for a vari­ety of envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions –  heavy met­al con­t­a­m­i­na­tions, for exam­ple – or to iden­ti­fy the pres­ence of cer­tain par­a­sites.

This year’s par­tic­i­pants include teams from Har­vard, Berke­ley, Carnegie-Mel­lon, Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. The win­ners will pro­ceed to the World Cham­pi­onship in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts in Novem­ber.


WHAT:  Syn­thet­ic Biol­o­gy Com­pe­ti­tion

WHEN: The final­ists will com­pete on Sun­day, Octo­ber 6, 9 – 10:45 a.m.
Awards pre­sen­ta­tion 11:15 a.m.

WHERE: MacMil­lan The­atre, Edward John­son Build­ing, 80 Queen’s Park



Gra­ham Cro­mar
416–813-7654 ext. 30–1846

Ser­gio Peisajovich
Cell & Sys­tems Biol­o­gy, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to

Kim Luke
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to