Press release

UK student teams receive Wellcome Trust support for synthetic biology competition

The Wellcome Trust today announces the recipients of its inaugural stipends aimed at supporting UK entries to iGEM - the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition.

iGEM is an annual competition that encourages teams of undergraduate students to develop innovative synthetic biology projects based around biological building bricks, or 'BioBricks', in the same way that engineering students might develop a robot using standardised parts.

Six teams of students have each received Wellcome Trust stipends of between £9,000 and £15,200 to enable them to develop their entries for the competition, which takes place this year in Cambridge, Massachusetts in November. The stipends will provide promising undergraduates hands-on experience of synthetic biology.

The teams come from across the UK, from the University of Aberdeen, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Newcastle University and the University of St Andrews.

Applications for the stipends were assessed for their relevance to biomedical science and were encouraged to encompass a broad range of disciplines - including science, engineering, mathematics, dentistry, medicine and veterinary science - as well as social science or ethics. An emphasis was placed on training and support from the institutional sponsors.

"iGEM is an exciting competition in the emerging, interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology and it is important that we support and encourage undergraduate scientists from UK teams to take part," says Dr Alan Schafer, Director of Science Funding at the Wellcome Trust. "The standard of the applications for these stipends was exceptional and highly encouraging. We will follow the UK teams very closely and wish them well in the competition."