In 2021, a team of young scientists from Toulouse, sponsored and supported by BioEco won the top prize in the prestigious iGEM competition. This annual, globally renowned event, has been running for almost two decades, involving more than 70,000 participants to-date. The focus of the contest is denoted by the iGEM acronym, which stands for international genetically engineered machine.

Indeed, at its inception, the competition was founded in order to bolster the synthetic biology industry. An attractive and exciting proposition, the iGEM has nurtured and developed new talent by providing a “sandbox” environment for innovation in this field.

Rather than being given a specific brief, iGEM teams have total license to focus on a project appropriate to their skillset and interests (note, teams are generally multidisciplinary). This multidisciplinary approach towards a specific field of science or project is something one would recognise in BioEco’s approach to teaching and learning, as can be seen in the circular economy blog. Perhaps, therefore, it isn’t a huge surprise that iGEM team from Toulouse, backed by BioEco, performed so strongly in last year’s competition. The team took advantage of the breadth of their studies in biotechnology, and the wealth of academic and research facilities in Toulouse and its surrounds to become the first ever French team to win the flagship under-23 award category.

The team created “Elixio” a project that demonstrated certain fragrances could be simply recreated through synthetic biology. Focusing on recreating the scent of the violet flower (considered “mute flower” since its smell is impossible to extract), the team were judged on the production of a wiki, a project video, a presentation – and of course, the quality of their research and practical experiments. To find out more about this fascinating project, and the team’s success, visit their project homepage.