Student competitions: NAWI Graz iGEM

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iGEM—international Genetically Engineered Machine—stands for an entire community of dedicated young researchers working in the field of synthetic biology. Biological systems, which do not exist in this form in nature, are created or already known systems are improved and used as creatively as possible.

Since 2007, teams of students from secondary and tertiary educational institutions all over the world have been competing to turn groundbreaking ideas in the field of synthetic biology into reality with a single year. The jurors attach great importance both to the actual research and the ability of the teams to bring the topic of synthetic biology out of the educational environment and to attention of the general public. At the end of the one-year competition period, the teams present the results of their projects in and outside the laboratory at a major conference.

Key features of the competition are the open access to all research data produced, provided via individual Wiki websites (as an example: the iGEM NAWI Graz Project 2018), and the ambition to combine synthetic biology with as many other research areas as possible.

In addition, the iGEM NAWI Graz team works closely with experts working in the fields of medicine and biology as well as industry to address concerns and remove biases about synthetic biology. Schools are visited to give pupils an insight into this new subject area.

Projects and Achievements

  • 2019: The team dedicated its work towards a solution for the american foulbrood, a disease affecting bees and did an amazing job that won them two gold medals (BEST DIAGNOSTICS PROJECT und BEST HUMAN PRACTICE). Webseite Team NAWI Graz 2019
  • 2018: The team consisting of students from TU Graz and University of Graz focused on the biosynthesis of a functional alternative to palm kernel oil using microorganisms. The team won a bronze medal at the iGEM Competition for synthetic biology. Website Team NAWI_Graz 2018
  • 2017:  The team consisting of students from TU Graz and University of Graz realised a communication interface between robots and bacteria. The team won a silver medal at the iGEM Competition for synthetic biology. Website Team NAWI_Graz 2017
  • 2016: The first team consisting entirely of students from universities in Graz (University of Graz and TU Graz) took part in the iGEM Competition for synthetic biology, winning bronze. Website Team NAWI_Graz 2016

Team 2019

The American foulbrood is the most important bacterial bee disease in Austria and Europa but its early detection is still time-consuming and dependent on supporting infrastructure (especially a microbial laboratory). Therefore we are developing a biosensor, with which every beekeeper can detect the disease by himself long before it manifests clinically and can take appropriate measures. We aim to fully develop a functional prototype of a biosensor, which is ready to be used in a fast and easy manner. To cover all the needed know-how our team consists of molecular biologists as well as students of chemistry and biomedical engineering.

We are in contact with beekeepers and with beekeeping associations and get help from professors and researchers in the field of apicology, microbiology and electrical chemistry.

Team 2018

The palm oil industry grew dramatically during recent decades due to rising demand. Its impact on the food, cosmetics and technology industries cannot be ignored. In response to the problems that have arisen, the team has focused on the production of palm kernel oil using genetically modified microorganisms. As part of the iGEM project, we had the opportunity to speak with experts from different fields about the current situation in the palm oil industry and survey members of the population regarding their palm oil consumption.

    The iGEM competition enables students to apply their ideas and visions, gain experience in the independent organisation, plan and implement a project and cooperate with professors, company and organization representatives.

Team 2017

As part of the iGEM competition 2017, we developed a communication interface between robots and bacteria that is based on the detection of fluorescent dyes produced under different environmental conditions. As a practical application, a robot was guided through a labyrinth by genetically modified E. coli, which were in a homemade bioreactor. The project generated great interest in the final event in Boston, and we were able to win a silver medal.

    In addition to the development of this interface, the team also used this opportunity to introduce the topic of synthetic biology to the general public through public events and school visits.

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Cooperating partners

 TU Graz  Universität Graz 

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Contact Information


Petersgasse 12/2
8010 Graz

The current iGEM team looks for a new team each autumn, providing initial support and helping set up the team. Do you want to be part of the iGEM team? The iGEM Team NAWI Graz welcomes students from all disciplines! For information, please send us an em

Team 2020 (postponed, COVID)

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