Synthetic Biology and Genetic Engineering for Human Health and Society: Duke iGEM (2020-2021)

The Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team was founded to stimulate students’ interest in science and engineering and prepare them to be future leaders in these emerging fields.

Working within the Woo Center for Big Data and Precision Medicine, the 2020-2021 iGEM team worked to create a high-throughput drug screening platform for glioblastoma using an organoid and reporter-integrated glioma cell co-culture system. Team members established a high-throughput protocol for generating cerebral organoids using microfluidic technology. Previous protocols for deriving cerebral organoids from human iPSCs are time-consuming and labor-intensive, with a high percentage loss of organoids in the process. By integrating microfluidic technologies in the protocol, the team overcame this barrier and were able to generate numerous cerebral organoids in one batch on the scale of hundreds or even thousands. 

The team also worked on the development of reporter constructs to allow for the quantification of expressed levels of relevant compounds within the cell, which serves to facilitate the rapid and high-throughput determination of the impacts that various therapeutics have on cells. Team members constructed and verified several basic reporters and worked on designing and building the reporter systems specific to the compounds we wish to detect. To facilitate the evaluation of therapeutics using our platform, the computational subteam worked on applying models for the detection and segmentation of organoids from imaging data.

Additionally, team members focused on the human practices aspect of our project by identifying and interviewing several key stakeholders in this field of work. The team is finalizing an interactive report using these interviews to convey the opinions surrounding the societal and ethical impacts of the project.


Spring 2020 – Fall 2020

Team Outputs

Synthetic Biology for Human Health and Society (research poster)

Interactive report

See related teams, Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team (2021-2022) and Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team (2018-2019).


Image: Previous Duke iGEM team members work on their project.

Team members.

Team Leaders

  • Xiling Shen, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering
  • Zhaohui Wang, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Caroline Anderson, Biology (BS)
  • Andres Bermudez
  • Trevor Gannalo, Biology (BS)
  • Ruopu Jiao, Biomedical Engineering (BSE), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Ashley Jones, Biology (BS)
  • Sara Liszeski, Computer Science (BS)
  • Andy Qiao, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Isabella Wang
  • Happy Yao, Biology (BS), Pre-College

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Jason Somarelli, School of Medicine-Medicine: Medical Oncology