On November 8th and 9th, CSAIL played host to the fifth annual International Genetically Modified Machines (or iGem) Jamboree. Drawing on the talents of teams from 21 countries around the world, the Jamboree aims to foster creativity in partnership with standardization of biological building blocks in the field of synthetic biology. Each team is given a toolkit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer. The teams then synthesize and implement projects of their own design; the challenge culminates in the competition known as the Championship Jamboree. This year, 84 teams made up of over eight hundred contestants competed for the top prize. The winning Slovenian team designed a vaccine for Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that affects nearly half of the world’s population at one time or another. In addition to causing ulcers and intestinal cancer, the bacteria are difficult for the immune system to track due to the presence of the protein flagellin (found in the locomotive tail of some bacteria). To read more about iGem, please visit their website; additional publicity surrounding this year’s conference can be found here and here.