Synthetic Biology and Genetic Engineering for Human Health and Society (2022-2023)

The annual International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition encourages university and high school students to explore synthetic biology in hands-on, collaborative research experiences. The Duke iGEM team was founded to stimulate and nurture students’ passions in science and engineering with a focus on synthetic biology and biotechnology exploration and to prepare them as future leaders, innovators and researchers in these emerging fields. 

In 2022-2023, the Duke iGEM team modeled and built synthetic gene circuits to understand the emergence of drug resistance in brain cancer cells. In particular, the team examined treatments for glioma. Glioma affects ~20,000 Americans annually, but the development of treatment is limited by the lack of a scalable, physiologically relevant model for testing therapeutics. To tackle this challenge, the team developed a new drug screening platform they called NODES. Researchers, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers can use NODES to test novel chemical compounds, verify the impacts of therapeutics before initiating clinical trials and develop patient-specific therapies. Amidst product development, team members also engaged with stakeholders of glioma cancers, including physicians and patients, to understand their needs in research and work closely with the local community to increase awareness of the impact of synthetic biology. 

Team members shared their findings at the international iGEM Competition in October 2022, where they earned a silver medal.


Summer 2022 – Summer 2023

Team Outputs

Team website

This Team in the News

Growing as Scientists and as People

Faculty “Gem” Receives Bass Connections Leadership Award

Bass Connections Teams Share Research Highlights at 2023 Showcase

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2023

See related teams, Synthetic Biology and Genetic Engineering for Human Health and Society (2023-2024) and Synthetic Biology and Genetic Engineering for Human Health and Society: Duke iGEM (2021-2022).


Image: Duke iGEM logo

Duke iGEM logo.

Team Leaders

  • Cameron Kim, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering
  • Zhaohui Wang, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering

/graduate Team Members

  • Harshitha Venugopal Lavanya, Biomedical Engineering-PHD, Biomedical Engineering-MS

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ashley Browne, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Shelby Cherkas, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Dahlia Halabi, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Ashley Jones, Biology (BS)
  • Robert Kaptur, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Kishan Patel, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Andy Qiao, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Jacqueline Reed, Interdepartmental Major
  • Giselle Russi, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Jessica Shah, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Casey Syal, Biology (BS)
  • Athanacia Varelas, Biology (AB)
  • Isabella Wang, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Xiao Wu, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Happy Yao, Biology (BS)