Over fall break, Penn’s first team to the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition won a silver medal for their cell design.

The team travelled to Indianapolis the weekend of Oct. 8 to compete in a Regional Jamboree against groups from North and South America.

They won a silver medal for a “well-characterized” biobrick, a structure that contains DNA sequences, College junior and iGEM team member Arthur Kuan said.

Kuan and his team members worked to develop a system for mammalian cells to communicate through photons, instead of chemical diffusion.

The judges were impressed by the Penn team’s biobrick and decided to include it in a database so that other iGEM teams would be able to benefit from it in the future.

While the team did not advance to the world championship, they still remain hopeful about next year’s competition.

“We’re not discouraged. We’ll try again next year and come back with a better project,” Kuan said.

Since Penn iGEM was the first team to present on Sunday, members had the opportunity to view presentations from other teams. A team favorite was the project created by Yale iGEM, where students discovered an insect that produced an antifreeze protein and cloned the gene into their own biobrick.

“It was really inspiring… it fired me up for another semester of research,” Kuan said.

Next year, the team plans to take on more of an entrepreneurial focus and hopes to submit a business plan with next year’s project.

Students interested in joining next year’s team should contact Bioengineering professor Casim Sarkar. Penn iGEM also plans to issue an announcement about recruitment in November.

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