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The International Genetically-Engineered Machine competition challenges students from universities around the globe to use the vast amount of knowledge that Molecular Biology and Biochemistry have obtained over the past century and put it to use to make the world a better (or simply more interesting) place for us to live in.

Most iGEM teams have built their projects upon the humble bacterium Escherichia coli, which is well-understood and easy to engineer. No team in past years has engineered a multicellular organism. Since many teams are comprised of students from diverse backgrounds, the more intricate complexities of the biology of higher organisms aren’t always accessible, and this has set a ceiling on project evolution. We set out to make these advancements possible, and bring iGEM into the kingdom Animalia.

Caenorhabidits elegans is a worm about a millimeter long. It’s a common model organism, easier to work with than most well-studied animals, and feeds on bacteria. Last spring, our team didn’t know much more about it than that. But we learned and studied, and engineered a whole set of foundational BioBricks in the hope that we would be able to offer other teams in future years the tools and information that would let them expand beyond one-cell projects. W

If you want to dive into background material on the worm, now is a good time to head over to WormGuide. Otherwise, keep reading!

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