UC Berkeley students competed in the 2005 intercollegiate Genetically Engineered Machine, or iGEM, competition. Nine teams fielded by universities and colleges from San Francisco to Zurich spent their summers engineering bacteria to accomplish a specific task using modified DNA components called BioBricks.
The Berkeley team exploited a bacterial trick called conjugation, in which bacteria exchange bits of DNA when they come into close contact. Their technique is hailed as a new method of controlling a group of cells by sending directions between them.
There were no winners in the cooperative competition, which concluded with a conference at MIT in November, but Berkeley students were given the Red-Eye Award, the XXXtreme Presentation Award, the Best Conceptual Advance Award, and the Most Innovative Brick Award. The team was led by Bioengineering Professors Jay Keasling and Adam Arkin, who plan to participate again in 2006.
This research was featured in a December 14 story in The San Diego Union-Tribune.