iGEM 2021 Safety and Security Grant

This year, iGEM’s Safety and Security Program will award up to 5 grants of $5000 each to teams who wish to work on technical advances in biosafety and biosecurity.

At iGEM, we don’t see safety and security as just a set of rules to follow or a list of dangers to avoid. Rather, we think you can’t know whether you’re engineering biology to be good for the world if you haven’t thought about engineering it to be safe.

But... how, exactly, should you go about engineering it to be safe? How can you creatively accelerate the evolution of synthetic biology towards benefits and away from risks? This is the kind of thorny technical challenge that iGEM teams excel at!

To encourage teams to take on this challenge, we are offering up to 5 grants of up to $5000 to accelerate technical progress in biosafety and biosecurity!

Biosafety experiments performed by team NUS-Singapore-A in 2018

What kinds of technical progress do we want to fund?

  • Developing countermeasures for biosecurity vulnerabilities identified by your team (example: the biosecurity software developed by Lethbridge 2017 to make DNA screening robust to genetic recoding)
  • Designing safer alternatives for common synthetic biology methods (example: the antibiotic-free screening method developed by IIT-Madras 2011)
  • Characterizing potential environmental impacts if synthetic biology products were brought outside the lab (example: tests by NUS Singapore-A 2018 to ensure their biosynthetic dye didn’t contain any living organisms)
  • Developing and/or characterizing biocontainment approaches (example: the three-tier containment approach designed by Paris-Bettencourt 2012 prevent horizontal gene transfer)
  • Empirically examining the safety of your team's design decisions (example: tests by Aachen 2015 to validate the use of their sensor hardware in biosafety level 1)

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list: we want to see your innovative ideas!

Your project does not need to focus entirely on safety or security for your team to apply. Rather, we hope this grant enables you to dedicate additional time and resources to engineering safer synthetic biology.

Have questions? Please contact safety AT igem DOT org.

Note: You must be an approved iGEM 2021 team to apply for this grant. Approved teams have fulfilled all registration requirements, including submitting the team registration fee.

With thanks to Open Philanthropy